Songwe: Africa’s Energy Challenge Demand Urgent, Bold, 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, says Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

In a speech Wednesday to RES4Africa Foundation’s 7th annual conference on the theme Overcoming Africa’s Energy Access Gap, Ms. Songwe said; “We need to tackle Africa’s energy challenge with urgent, bold and ambitious agenda.”

“Current policies and levels of ambition on the continent are not enough. It is estimated that at this rate we will still end up with about the same number of people without access to electricity today and even more people without access to clean cooking solutions by 2030.”

The ECA Chief said megatrends on the continent, including growing population, increasing middle class, 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 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,” said Ms. Songwe.

“We cannot talk of a prosperous Africa without energy at the heart of it. We need energy for the AfCFTA, education, health and jobs for our growing youthful population and enhanced opportunities for women. We just cannot have a successful AfCFTA without sufficient and reliable energy.”

Ms. Songwe said it was not acceptable that in many African countries with low rates of access to electricity, the energy being generated was not fully consumed because of lack of transmission and distribution ‘to take it to where it is needed or a situation where families live in the dark under transmission lines because we cannot afford to drop the line to power their lives’.

Unreliable, low quality and expensive power is the norm in most African countries.

“This situation hampers and will continue to hamper the competitiveness of the continent’s tradable goods industries,” Ms. Songwe said, adding political will and transformational leadership was needed to drive the energy agenda.

She proposed a blueprint for innovative, clear and coherent policies and regulatory stability, business models and incentives to enhance investor confidence, among other approaches.

In this regard the ECA is conducting a review of policy and regulator frameworks in Africa, including specific country support based on demand.

Ms. Songwe said Africa needs to invest in building credible institutions and human and institutional capacity for energy investment planning. The ECA’s Institute for Economic Planning and Development (IDEP) is supporting member States in this effort.

“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.

This way we can accelerate efforts to bring online the close to 200 giga watts for power projects announced or in the pipeline for development in Africa, added Ms. Songwe.

“So, let us strengthen our partnerships for an agenda to drive Africa’s energy transformation so that in a few years’ time we can all look back and celebrate the unleashing of Africa’s vast energy resources for its prosperity, that is an agenda for an empowered, inclusive and transformed Africa.”

Ms. Songwe said the ECA’s partnership with RES4Africa Foundation and others ‘is not just a partnership where we meet and have conversations but one that translates ideas into action for an Africa where no one gets left behind in terms of energy access’.

According to Antonio Cammisecra, President RES4Africa Foundation and CEO Enel Green Power; “Bringing the annual conference to Africa offers a unique opportunity to consolidate and expand RES4Africa’s well-established dialogue with key public and private sector stakeholders, multilateral institutions and civil society organizations working on accelerating access to clean energy as a foundation for inclusive and sustainable development in Africa.”

This year’s event is being hosted in cooperation with the African Union Commission, IRENA and the ECA with the support of the Ethiopian government.

Over 200 participants are attending the conference which is discussing and identifying strategic priorities for scaling up renewables across Africa to overcome energy access gaps.

The theme of the conference is “Overcoming Africa’s Energy Access Gap: Strategic Priorities for Scaling Up Renewables”.