Renewable energy could be "game changer" in Africa

19/11/2015
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Members of the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA) gave their full support this week to helping Africa achieve its target of 300GW of power from renewable energy by 2030, suggesting that it could be the ‘game changer’ that unlocks Africa’s energy potential and drives economic growth.

This year’s ICA annual meeting, which took place in Abidjan on November 16 to 17, 2015, further concluded that access to finance for investment in renewable energy projects was less of a challenge than the availability of well-prepared, bankable renewable energy projects to develop.

The 11th Annual Meeting of the ICA was jointly organised by the German government (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). It was hosted by the Bank at its headquarters in Abidjan.  Over 150 participants attended the meeting, including senior officials from Germany (as Chair of the G7), the African Union Commissioner  for Infrastructure and Energy, the Vice President of the African Development Bank,  representatives from the Regional Economic Communities, senior African stakeholders, representatives from other international donors and key private sector players in the renewable energy sector.

During the first day of the meeting, restricted to ICA members and invited observers, participants reported and discussed the key activities of the ICA and provided guidance about its future activity and strategic direction.  The primary topic for the meeting was the ICA’s annual report, Infrastructure Financing Trends in Africa 2014, which was well received and commended.  The report showed that over US$74billion was committed in 2014 to the development of Africa's infrastructure, and that disbursements by ICA members alone reached a record level of US$13billion.

Commenting on the reaction to the report, the ICA’s Coordinator, Mohamed Hassan, said: “ICA members felt that both the scope and analysis of data was commendable, specifically the coverage of 44 countries in Africa, while the private sector survey was extremely helpful in identifying major constraints to creating an enabling environment.”

The open Plenary Meeting on the second day focused on Implementing Renewable Energy Initiatives in Africa.  In addition to highlighting the key role that renewable energy can play in Africa’s economic development and flagging up the need for a ‘pipeline’ of well-prepared renewable energy projects, other key messages from the meeting included:

  • Political will and commitment at the highest level was vital if Africa is to achieve a target of 300GW of renewable energy by 2030, but this must also be supported by strong institutions and frameworks that inspire confidence.
  • There is no 'one size fits all' solution for Africa's energy challenges.  Renewable energy, using a variety of technologies, can play a vital role in widening access to power, particularly as some technologies can be introduced rapidly.
  • The role and experience of the private sector will be vital if the 300GW of renewable energy by 2030 target is to be met.
  • Capacity building, skills improvement, job creation and the sharing of best practice were also critical factors if Africa's target of 300GW of power from renewable energy sources by 2030 is to be achieved.

Both the timing of the ICA Annual Meeting and its focus on renewable energy were appropriate given the proximity of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21), which will take place in Paris in from November 30 to December 11, 2015.