African countries from Algeria to Zimbabwe are being told by the West to transition to cleaner energy sources and move away from coal and oil as part of global efforts to combat climate change. Let’s just call it the Paris Agreement. Yet, there’s one fundamental point the West continues to overlook, which ties into other Africa-specific sociological issues.

African leaders understand the energy transition is necessary. That’s not at question. The main problem Africa has is the pace at which the West wants it to occur.

Africa, home to about 1.4 billion people, nearly one-fifth of the world’s population, accounts for less than 3% of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions. The continent boasts the lowest emissions per capita of any region in the world, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA).

Some 600 million people across the continent, around 43% of the total population and mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, lack access to electricity. An estimated 970 million on the continent lack access to clean cooking fuel, with LPG being the go-to source.

With no electricity, with no reliable energy sources for cooking, the necessities of day-to-day life are complicated at most, if not impossible. That includes education.

Maybe Africa is too far away from the U.S. for it to really matter in Washington. For Europe, it’s a much closer reality, but still not so close as to cause major discomfort. Even then, Italy and Spain are usually the first impacted by African migrant flows.

If Washington can’t get a grasp of the economic, financial and political issues impacting Latin America and the Caribbean and come up with a viable energy policy in its so-called backyard, then it will surely be lost when it comes to Africa, further across the pond.

Africa is home to massive oil and gas resources, as well as vast mineral resources such as cobalt, manganese and platinum—key minerals needed in the development of batteries and hydrogen technologies.

The continent, one of the last to be developed, can and will play a major role in providing necessary energy supply to meet its—and the world’s—future energy demands.

Tapping the African resources could help the world further reduce its reliance on Russian energy or energy, for that matter, from any so-called ‘rogue states.’ I’ll refer you to Washington for its definition.

Development of these resources, if done right and to the benefit of Africa and Africans, could lend a massive hand to the global energy transition and race to net zero by 2030, 2040 or 2050, depending on the date preferred by leaders in Washington, London, Paris, Brussels or Copenhagen. Regardless, the dates seem too far into the future to really matter, considering the magnitude and seriousness of the climate crisis.

I’ll leave that for Greta Thunberg to address in only the way she can.

Back on point. So, what does Africa want from the West?

At the most basic level, two things:

First, a just time to transition. Not today, not tomorrow, not even 10 years from now. A just transition might not really start until the world stops using coal and oil.

Second, financial and technological assistance to develop its existing oil and gas resources to finance the transition. Massive investments in infrastructure are needed, from roads to schools and hospitals. The list goes on. Technology has to accompany those investments.

These basics fall within the discussion around the energy trilemma—a framework of three objectives to be balanced including sustainability, security and affordability—as well as the one around ESG and how companies use the standards to measure their impact on society and the environment.

Africa isn’t blaming the West for all its issues, but African pundits argue that some of them have mothballed into larger ones. Within that space, many point the spotlight on the colonial history in Africa, which touches on former British and French influences over the continent.

Today, what is needed is more dialogue, and not just in one direction. That’s true of the West and its relations—or lack of them—in Latin America and the Caribbean as well.

It can’t be overstressed that the West in general and the U.S. in particular can’t dictate the pace of Africa’s energy transition. Whether the West is listening is another question.

But the West better listen, lest it risk ceding further ground to the Chinese, who continue to seek resources under a Belt and Road initiative in countries across Africa and off course spanning into Latin America.

But unlike the West—especially the U.S. in this case—the Chinese do so with “little” intention of influencing internal politics.

Before it’s too late or later than it already is, the West best listen to Africa and its Latin American cousins as they contain both massive populations and energy resources. The world needs them to transition—and preferably in a just manner—as they tackle issues developed nations no longer have to face or just tend to ignore.