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Carbon Colonialism? Why Carbon Credits Won’t Necessarily be Good for Africa.

These deals are a false solution to the climate crisis.

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From November 30 to December 12, this year, delegates from nearly 200 countries across the globe, leaders of business and finance, and representatives of civil society gathered in Dubai for the COP28 climate conference, with the aim of fast-tracking the transition to a clean-energy future. 

The climate conference was expected to stress the importance of collective action to stop climate change and the critical role of finance in the low-carbon transition.

In the wake of this quintessentially significant global summit, social media platforms in Tanzania were awash with news of agreements entered between the Emirati Company (Blue Carbon LLC) and the Government of Tanzania for carbon credits trading. 

According to the BBC News Channel, Tanzania has signed a deal for one of East Africa’s biggest land-based carbon credit projects in what is estimated to cover about six national parks, spanning 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres). 

READ MORE: Carbon Credits Trading: A New Form of Africa’s Colonialism?

The report raised a number of profoundly disturbing questions and eyebrows as to whether this is not “greenwashing”, or perhaps, yet again a new form of colonialism, disguised as a collective global effort to save the world from the supposedly impending climate disaster. 

The signing of the agreement between the Blue Carbon LLC and the Government of Tanzania was witnessed by the Head of Emirati-Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook al-Maktoum, and some top officials of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania in Dodoma. Similar bilateral agreements have also been entered into by the governments of Liberia, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In Liberia, according to Le monde, the young member of the ruling family of Dubai, one of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which hosted this year’s COP28, had just signed an unprecedented memorandum of understanding with the government. 

Under the terms of the agreement, the Liberian government will grant the company he heads, exclusive rights to one million hectares of its forests – 10% of the West African country’s total forest area – for 30 years.

READ MORE: REDD+ and Local Communities’ Welfare in Tanzania: Past Lessons and Current Trends

Created in August 2022, the company has signed memorandums of understanding for forest management projects with four African countries in record time. These arrangements cover 10% of the total surface area of Liberia, as well as Tanzania, Zambia and 20% of Zimbabwe, for a total of 25 million hectares – almost half that of France.

Speaking to the Emirati press following the signed agreement with the Liberian Government in 2022, the Prince hailed these bilateral associations as a milestone for Blue Carbon. 

The Prince maintained that such bilateral arrangements will go a long way to “help transition to a low-carbon economical system”, by enabling governments around the world reach “their Net Zero” goals in compliance with the transferability of credits under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Officially, Blue Carbon is a private company, independent of the Emirati state, and it insists that the carbon credits generated by its projects are intended to be sold to various countries, “not only the UAE.”

But the family ties of its founder and a confidential, provisional and unsigned version of the memorandum of understanding between Blue Carbon and the Liberian government suggest an alignment between the company’s interests and those of the UAE. 

According to Le Monde, there is already in place a timetable that envisages the signing of a “framework agreement” for the transfer of carbon credits between the Emirati and Liberian governments at COP28.

READ MORE: Carbon Trading Is a False Solution for Climate Action. Here’s Why

This interest comes as no surprise. The world’s 7th-largest oil producer has no intention of abandoning fossil fuel extraction, even though this has been identified as the main cause of global warming, but it will not remain on the sidelines of climate negotiations either.

The UAE used to be a rule breaker in its staunch defence of fossil fuels. More recently, and as host of COP28, the UAE is adopting a rule shaping function whereby it tries to massage or influence conversations around fossil fuels to maximize space for the latter’s continued existence.

Cleaning up the polluter’s image

To sidestep calls to phase out fossil fuels, the UAE is trying to further the general concept and acceptability of offsets. Therefore having a few allies with several countries willing to work with Blue Carbon is a good strategy for them.

But there are also fears of a vast public relations campaign to clean up their image as polluters. These credits will be used by UAE and other rich polluting countries to increase their fossil fuel production and climate governance experts have even warned that this practice will further increase the climate crisis.

According to Axel Michaelowa, a researcher in international climate policy at the University of Zurich, the company could generate up to 250 million carbon credits a year. Enough to offset, in theory, the entire CO₂ emissions of the United Arab Emirates.

READ MORE: New Scramble for Africa: It Is Time for Africa-Africa Summit

Meanwhile, in Liberia alone, more than a million people could see their livelihoods affected by Blue Carbon’s project. The transfer of land to the company would constitute a violation of the land rights of the communities that depend on it in the African countries in which the company is entering such agreements with their respective governments. 

This arrangement has raised fears of what many climate activists have described as “carbon colonialism”. It has also been observed that these deals could also undermine these countries’ chance to use their own forests to meet their own climate commitments. 

These deals are a false solution to the climate crisis. The government of Tanzania and other African governments entering these carbon credits trading agreements must have a thorough assessment of the cost-benefits associated with this new climate change mitigation practice.

John Kitoka is the Executive Director of HakiTaarifa Tanzania and an independent analyst based in Dar es Salaam. He can be reached through his cell number—+255 755 622697 or by email at The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at

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3 Responses

  1. Congratulation my country man, your work is very essential momentarialy and needs to add on public awareness in general and this very article provide insights on what should be done to avoid and clear uncertainity raising between managing blue carbon and natives to be either affected by this carbon investment or benefiting from blue carbon. You have indicated that the owners and producer of fossil energy are now coming with these initiative of blue carbon, to me, it might be clearly conspiratory theory that if you can not fight them in the near futurd join them

    1. I think we need to have in place clear pro-citizen and home grown policies and practices that are in tune with the greater good of the country. We should be warry and also well aware of foreign imposed approaches on how we should (mis)manage our natural resources.

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