African experts and policymakers on Wednesday urged concerted efforts to tackle the current poor access to energy, with particular emphasis given to investments in the renewable energy sector.
They made the urgent call during a continental renewable energy conference, which was held on Wednesday in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa under the theme “Overcoming Africa’s Energy Access Gap.”
Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Vera Songwe, who noted “unreliable, low quality and expensive power is the norm in most African countries,” urged African countries and development partners to tackle Africa’s energy challenge with “urgent, bold and ambitious agenda.”
“Africa needs to increase its levels of ambition and strengthen its policies if it is to close its energy gap, increase competitiveness and power its inclusive and sustainable development,” Songwe said.
According to the ECA chief, megatrends on the continent, including a growing population, an increasing middle-class population, industrialization, climate change, rapid urbanization and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) “will lead to a significant increase in the demand for energy.”
“We just cannot have a successful AfCFTA without sufficient and reliable energy,” Songwe stressed. “We need plenty of electricity and heat to produce the goods that we need to trade within the AfCFTA and also to power the services needed.”
According to Songwe, the road towards a prosperous Africa – which aspires major progress in education, health, employment opportunities for Africa’s growing youth population and enhanced opportunities for women “is unattainable without energy at the heart of it.”
Songwe also emphasized the need for “big investors to work with locals if they are to make speedy progress in delivering clean renewable energy on the continent.”
“We can deliver the energization of Africa’s development with greater ambition if we build strong partnerships for action to ensure the right win-win models of public-private-partnerships to finance the green energy transformation for the Africa we want by 2063,” she said.
According to figures from the African Union (AU), more than 600 million people across Africa presently “remain without access to electricity.”
The International Energy Agency (IEA) also previously revealed that Sub-Saharan Africa “has the potential to leapfrog to a new development path fuelled by renewable and natural gas.”
The continent, which accounts for 13 percent of global population, however, is the least in energy demand as compared to other parts of the world, with only 4 percent of the world’s energy demand — half of which is said to be from biomass energy sources “causing severe health impact,” according to the IEA.
According to the ECA, in many African countries with low rates of access to electricity, the energy being generated was not fully consumed due to lack of transmission and distribution, adding “this situation hampers and will continue to hamper the competitiveness of the continent’s tradable goods industries.”
Participants of the conference also on Wednesday proposed the development of a blueprint for innovative, clear and coherent policies and regulatory stability, business models and incentives to enhance investor confidence as an approach to boost investment in the renewable energy sector.
The ECA also revealed that it is conducting a review of policy and regulatory frameworks in Africa, including specific country support based on demand.
President of RES4Africa Foundation Antonio Cammisecra, co-hosting the annual conference, also echoed the call made by the ECA Executive Secretary, as he emphasized the need to exert more concerted efforts in the development of renewable energy sources in Africa.
Cammisecra said that the high-level conference “offers a unique opportunity to consolidate and expand a well-established dialogue” with key public and private sector stakeholders, multilateral institutions and civil society organizations working on accelerating access to clean energy.
The annual high-level energy conference has brought together more than 200 experts and policymakers in the energy sector in a bid to identify strategic priorities for scaling up access to renewable energy across Africa.