Lighting up Africa requires coordination in energy initiatives

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The mushrooming of energy initiatives in Africa is a welcome development, but there is need for coordination of these initiatives to ensure their success, African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Kurt Lonsway has said.

Lonsway, Manager of the Environment and Climate Change Division at the AfDB, which hosts the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Africa Hub, added that coordination is crucial in these energy initiatives in order to avoid duplication.

He said a multitude of initiatives with similar objectives increases the risks related to duplication of efforts and uncoordinated implementation especially in view of limited absorption capacities at the country level.

“There is a need for a coordination framework that is able to ensure coherence and avoid duplication of effort, and maximize reach and impact across the continent,” Lonsway said.

Lonsway was speaking at a panel discussion on Coordination of Pan African Energy Initiatives which took place on the 10th day of negotiations at the 21st conference of parties (COP21) in Paris.

Concurring with Lonsway, the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Elham Ibrahim, said it is important that any new energy initiative on the continent takes a look at existing initiatives that are already on the ground to avoid duplication.

Ibrahim said coordination is important in ensuring that initiatives are complementing each other.

“Energy initiatives should not compete with each other, but rather they should complement each other,” she said.

According to Lonsway, over 600 million Africans lack access to electricity while over 700 million Africans still rely on solid fuels for cooking and heating purposes. This is despite the fact that Africa is endowed with huge energy potential particularly in renewable energy which is largely untapped.

Several energy initiatives have emerged at COP21. Among them is the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), a transformative, Africa-owned and Africa-led inclusive effort to accelerate and scale up the harnessing of the continent’s untapped and huge renewable energy potential.

Under the mandate of the African Union (AU), and endorsed by African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC), the Initiative is set to achieve at least 10 GW of new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020, and mobilize the African potential to generate at least 300 GW by 2030.

Mamadou Diakite of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) said with several energy initiatives in Africa, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. He called for harmonization of the initiatives and for countries to set the rules of engagement.

On the other hand, Peter Craig-McQuaide of Head of Unit, Directorate General for Development and Cooperation, EuropeAid, at the EU Commission, said that access to energy by all was the EU Commission’s priority. However, he said that as partners they are all guilty of lack of coordination.

Craig-McQuaide further called for African governments to put their house in order if they are to benefit from the many energy initiatives coming up in Africa.

For coordination to be achieved the common starting point identified by many stakeholders is a mapping of existing initiatives and programs to serve as a critical input and prerequisite for facilitating coordination.

The Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP), with funding from the European Commission, has initiated such mapping. The African Union Commission has been providing political leadership, with technical input from the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Africa Hub, based at the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The objective of the mapping is to compile a comprehensive, focused and systematic overview on energy initiatives and programs in Africa, so that overlaps, gaps and potential areas for collaboration and synergies can be identified.