AfDB puts energy on the front burner of Africa’s development agenda

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) has placed energy squarely on the front burner of its development agenda, for a continent on which some 645 million, more than half of the population, do not have access to reliable electricity. Africa’s “energy poverty” is a paradox, given that the continent is blessed with vast raw energy resources.  A two-day debate on the subject ended in Abidjan on Friday.

AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina believes that Africa’s energy deficit is the continent’s most glaring challenge. He puts it at the top of his five-point agenda for his Presidency: “light up and power Africa; feed Africa; integrate Africa; industrialise Africa and improve quality of life for the people of Africa”.

The President shared the “New Deal for Energy in Africa” with hundreds of top government and business partners on Thursday, 17 September 2015 at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

It charts the way for a transformative partnership on energy, and focuses on mobilizing support and funding for the initiative.

Under the Deal, AfDB would significantly expand its support towards energy in Africa. Development partners would be expected to scale up their ongoing efforts, while countries must also expand their own share of energy sector financing, while at the same time demonstrating stronger political will to ensure the Deal’s success. Development partners would also be required to work together and coordinate their efforts to drive critical policy and regulatory reforms of the energy sector to improve incentives for accelerated investments.

 “We must act differently, by building strategic partnerships on energy in Africa that allows us to reach a greater level of ambition and delivery,” Adesina said.

Over the two days, participants discussed a host of potential political, social and economic issues around transformative partnership for Africa’s energy development. These included policy and regulatory frameworks, resource mobilization, on and off-grid energy solutions and access to low-income segments of society.

Others include access to clean cooking energy solutions, strengthening and transforming utilities, as well as how to manage mix of renewable and non-renewable energy.

“There is an opportunity for the Bank to do something distinctive here,” a participant said.

Another added: “This is a greenfield opportunity for the Bank”.

Clearly there was a sense excitement that something really good was in the making at the AfDB. The participants included Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou of Benin, Vice Prime Minister Thomas Luhaka of the Democratic Republic of Congo, several energy ministers and chief executives of international energy companies, and other international business people.

The Bank will set out its follow-up action plan in the coming days, according to Solomon Asamoah, its Vice President for Infrastructure, Private Sector & Regional Integration, who coordinated the two-day debate.