Mainstream’s Chairman Resigns After Calling Africa ‘Tribal’

The founder and chairman of Irish green power developer Mainstream Renewable Power resigned after comments last week that Africa’s energy transition was being held back by a lack of education in “tribal societies.”

Eddie O’Connor resigned with immediate effect, according to a statement from Mainstream’s parent company Aker Horizons A/S. The Norwegian company bought a majority stake in Mainstream earlier this year that valued it at about $1 billion. Aker Chief Executive Officer Kristian Rokke will take over as chairman.

O’Connor made the comments while speaking on a panel about the energy transition at the Dublin Climate Dialogues. The moderator asked him if major economies would lead the investment needed in clean energy in the next five years. In major economies like China, Europe and the U.S., he said there would be no problem with investment. But in Africa, he said there was a lack of capability.

“When you go and talk to the ministers and the prime ministers and the minister of finance they do not have that tradition of democracy. They’re largely tribal societies,” O’Connor said. “They don’t have the educated cadres that are going to be able to do this.”

He has since apologized for the remarks. He called them “entirely inappropriate and insensitive,” in a statement posted on Mainstream’s website and his personal LinkedIn account.

O’Connor started Mainstream in 2008 with an investment of 30 million euros ($36.6 million). The company went on to develop some of the first offshore wind farms in the U.K. as well as green energy projects in South America and Africa. The company has about 1.4 gigawatts of solar and wind projects operating or under construction and 12.5 gigawatts of projects in various stages of development.

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