Windhoek, Namibia - Namibia's president recently signed a projected $10 billion deal that calls for Namibia and the German company Hyphen Energy to produce "green hydrogen," a clean energy source that advocates see as the fuel of the future.
Hyphen Energy last Friday concluded a multibillion-dollar agreement with the Namibian government to construct the project in the Tsau Khaeb National Park.
If a study finds the project to be feasible, Hyphen will build factories, pipelines and ports with the goal of producing 2 million tons of ammonia by 2030.
The ammonia, which could be used as fuel, would be produced using renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. The project would also produce oxygen and electricity for local consumption.
Speaking to the Voice of America, Namibia's green hydrogen commissioner and economic adviser to the president, James Mnyupe, said Hyphen Energy has made agreements with companies from Germany, England, South Korea and Japan that will ensure buyers for the company's main products.
The green hydrogen project, he said, will be vertically integrated.
"In other parts of the world you might get one player developing the port, another player developing the pipelines, another player developing the renewable energy and so on and so forth, whereas this project, we are envisioning to do all of that under one umbrella and that is what a vertically integrated project looks like," he said.
Hyphen's chief executive officer, Marco Raffinetti, said securing funding for green hydrogen projects is a massive undertaking but the investments are necessary if the world is to reduce the carbon output from fossil fuels which drive climate change.
Raffinetti said alternative sources of power, such as solar energy, were very expensive 20 years ago but have gradually become cheaper. He said green hydrogen might follow the same trajectory.
Namibian political commentators have raised red flags, however, regarding the speedy adoption of the project that is being spearheaded by the presidency. They question whether the project actually has national buy-in.
Speaking to VOA, political analyst Pendapala Hangala expressed some reservations about the project.
"This is a 45-year project, and a 40-year project, and ... I don't think it went through the right due process, and it is not clear what is going on because we are also looking at critical raw material.... It's a comprehensive project, which is being fast tracked, that is my concern," he said.
This green hydrogen project is touted as the largest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa.
Other countries such as Morocco are also embarking on green hydrogen projects, and Namibian commentators question what competitive advantage Namibia would have with exports over countries in closer proximity to Europe, which is viewed as the main buyer.