(Bloomberg) -- South Africa is aware of the dangers of fossil fuels, “but hunger will kill us faster,” its energy minister said.

While the continent’s most industrialized nation must transition to cleaner energies, Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has championed coal and other fossil fuels. South Africa generates more than 80% of its electricity from coal, although the development of privately funded renewable power projects is starting to gain momentum.

The industry has also been bolstered by soaring prices after Russia squeezed gas flows to Europe following its invasion of Ukraine, boosting demand for South African coal exports. Weaning the country off coal is viewed as a litmus test of global climate deals, but the ruling African National Congress is concerned about the impact on jobs and economic growth.

Mantashe is also encouraging investment in hydrocarbons following discoveries off the coast of South Africa and neighboring Namibia. 

“Africa’s oil and gas resources can help accelerate and guarantee the continent’s energy security,” Mantashe said at an oil conference in Cape Town on Tuesday.

At the same time, South Africa is committed to decarbonization, the minister said. “Transition to a low-carbon economy must include energy security, regard for human lives and sustainability, job security and economic growth,” he said.

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