Africa is at a crucial time for its transformation toward inclusive and sustainable development. Unfortunately, the continent remains trapped in a situation of severe energy deficiency. Of all the people without electricity in the world, 53 percent are in Africa. Per capita electricity use in Africa averages 181 kWh compared to about 13,000 kWh in the United States of America and over 6,500 kWh in Europe. It also costs African people more. Africa’s poorest pay some of the highest energy costs in the world, about 60 – 80 times per unit more in Northern Nigeria than residents in cities of New York and London. Today, over 645 million Africans do not have access to electricity, 700 million have no access to clean cooking energy, and 600,000 die each year from indoor pollution from reliance on biomass for cooking. Energy‐sector bottlenecks and power shortages are estimated to cost about 2 to 4 percent of GDP annually, undermining economic growth, employment creation and investment. In sum, while the economic, social and environmental challenges of Africa’s energy gap are many, Africa has a considerably reduced carbon footprint. The Bank estimates energy financing needs in sub-Saharan Africa at USD 55 billion per year, whereas developing domestic supply networks will require investments in energy networks and their upgrades.

Fortunately, potentials for cleaner energy in Africa are enormous, including natural gas, hydro, solar, wind and geothermal power:  the continent has untapped renewable energy resources which could deliver levels of supply in excess of domestic consumption to 2040 and far beyond. Also, the just ended UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) has demonstrated Africa’s commitment in joining the global fight against climate change and elimination of energy poverty through the submission of Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) by African countries to the UNFCCC.

The African Development Bank has announced the New Deal on Energy for Africa and launched a Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa to light up and power Africa by 2025, while decoupling Africa’s economic productivity from carbon dioxide emissions. The goal is to add 160 GW of new generation capacity via the grid, deliver 130 million new grid connections and 75 million off-grid connections. The Bank’s New Deal will play a catalytic role in accelerating the pace of structural transformation in the energy sector for inclusive green growth in Africa, unlocking the potential for industrialization and wealth creation, agricultural transformation and regional power pooling to integrate Africa, job creation, and ultimately improving the quality of life for Africans.

In this context, the choice of the theme of the 2016 edition of the Bank’s Annual Meetings, Energy and Climate Change, is timely to facilitate global mobilization for the emergence of a new Africa: a lighted up and powered Africa.

Under the theme, the Annual meetings will focus on at least three major concerns. Firstly, the debates will focus on the role of the New Deal on Energy and on the AREI to eliminate energy poverty. Secondly, the theme paves the way for debating the implications of the Paris Agreement and the INDCs on Africa. Thirdly, the annual meetings will focus on how the Energy and Climate Change issues will influence implementation of the High 5s priority areas of the Bank, namely – light up and power Africa, feed Africa, industrialize Africa, integrate Africa, and raise the quality of life in Africa - as charted by President Adesina.

The organization of the 2016 Annual Meetings will serve as the voice for all, through bringing together all African and external actors - governments, civil society, vulnerable groups such as the youth and women; the private sector whose role remains pivotal, and all technical and financial partners of Africa – to share ideas and experiences on mapping the future of Africa in an inclusive and sustainable way.

Africa is blessed with limitless potential for solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal energy resources. We must unlock Africa's energy potential – both conventional and renewable.

Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB President