Eddie O’Connor has resigned as chairman of the board of directors of international energy developer Mainstream Renewable Power, after being criticised for comments made at this week’s Dublin Climate Dialogues in which he suggested Africa’s energy transition was being slowed by under-education in “tribal societies”.

Bloomberg reported O’Connor, in answer to a panel moderator’s question as to whether major global economies or emerging markets would drive investment in clean energy in the next five years, said: “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. They don’t have the educated cadres that are going to be able to do this.”

O'Connor later apologised for using what he called “antiquated stereotypes”.

O’Connor, who is credited with being one of the pioneers in the renewable energy revolution through the impact of market-making offshore wind and solar project portfolios, is being replaced as chairman with immediate effect by Kristian Røkke, CEO of Aker Horizons, the Norwegian low-carbon investment house that in January took a 75% ownership stake in MRP for €750m ($910m).

“On behalf of the board, I wish to thank Eddie for his unwavering commitment and dedication to fulfilling his vision of a world electrified by renewable energy,” said Røkke.

“He began his journey to help decarbonise the world by building Ireland’s first wind farm in 1992 and over the intervening 30 years he has been a leading figure in the renewable energy industry globally.

“Eddie has played a pivotal role in helping to establish thriving renewable energy industries in a number of markets including Ireland, the UK, Chile and South Africa.”

O’Connor founded MRP in 2008 and was CEO until 2017, when he was appointed executive chairman of the company’s board of directors.