Energizing Africa’s future, benefiting the world

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African Development Bank Group (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina delivered an impassioned speech to high-level leaders Sunday morning about why putting all of Africa on the power grid is not only good for the continent, but also for the world.

“The private sector is frozen in time,” he said, and “the lack of energy has put the brakes on Africa’s industrialization.” That stunted internal development prevents the continent’s 54 resource-rich nations from attracting the external investment that would allow everyone to prosper.

He told the crowd that now is the time to push past the days when more than half a million people die each year simply because they have no access to clean cooking energy. He insisted that the era of factories lying dormant due to lack of electricity must come to an end.

“Africa cannot stand by with such massive energy resources and yet be known for the darkness, not the brightness, of its cities and rural areas,” Adesina said. “Africa is blessed with limitless potential for solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal energy resources. And, of course,” he added, its “abundant supply of natural gas and coal.”

Adesina delivered his remarks on the eve of the general debate of the 70th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). He stressed the point that one of the most important components of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), officially endorsed this week, is number 7, energy.

“Africa is simply tired of being in the dark,” he said. “That is why the African Development Bank has launched a ‘New Deal for Energy in Africa’, to fast-track universal access to power by 2025.” The goal: “Lighting up and powering Africa in 10 years, not 50.”

Adesina addressed leaders including World Bank Group President Jim Kim, United Nations Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, among others.

Jim Kim publicly congratulated Adesina on his new position as head of the AfDB, and commended his commitment to powering up the second-largest continent on the planet.

Adesina said the only way to do that is to band together with partner organizations and nations to raise expectations, aspirations and financing. So in back-to-back meetings Sunday afternoon he worked to spark the excitement needed to make that happen. He strategized on energy, job creation, industrialization and more with Ghana’s President, John Mahama, the UN Under Secretary General and Special Advisor on Africa, Maged Abdelaziz, and US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. And for the first time in his tenure as AfDB President, Adesina met with Luis Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank, and others leaders of multilateral development institutions around the globe.

A flourishing Africa is good for the world. So with a five-point plan in place, Adesina is making clear this week that he has a master plan to unlock Africa’s energy potential – both conventional and renewable.