World leaders, private sector endorse AfDB’s “New Deal on Energy”

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Influential world leaders and senior business executives have endorsed President Akinwumi Adesina’s “New Deal on Energy”, a vehicle through which the African Development Bank (AfDB) will invest in delivering electricity for all Africans, by 2025.

These included Olusegun Obasanjo, former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria; Horst Koehler, former President of Germany; Nick Hurd, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom; Carlos Lopes, the United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa; as well as Jay Ireland, the President and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric Africa.

The endorsement was made on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at a high-level event on “Africa’s Energy: What’s the New Deal?” during the 51st AfDB Annual Meetings in Lusaka, Zambia.

The leaders pointed out that the New Deal on Energy would provide the much-needed coordination of investment into the energy sector on the continent to facilitate implementation.

There was also consensus that Africa has what it takes to achieve universal access to energy services while reducing the carbon intensity of its growth, hence reducing its contributions to global CO2 emissions.

Off-grid connections were identified as key to scaling up energy access to the rural power in the short term.

While Africa’s immense development needs require that countries use coal and fossils energy to power up industries, this should be done in phased approach to eventually replace them with clean energy.

In his remarks, Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB, emphasized the need to fast-track implementation of projects to light up Africa.

While Africa’s energy potential is undisputed, industries don’t run on potential, they run on energy, Adesina argued.

Adesina underscored the need for political will to galvanize and fast-track implementation. 

“Political will is crucial. We have to make sure things happen faster,” Adesina said, adding that fast-tracking off-grid connections is not only faster, but cheap.

Panelists cited that approximately 621 million people do not have access to electricity in Africa while at least 600,000 die each year from household air pollution because they rely for cooking on biomass.  

While these numbers may appear daunting at first glance, the recent advances in technology, business models and financing approach mean that this is an immense market opportunity that can be addressed within a decade, panelists underscored. 

The key is raising aspirations and multi-faceted partnerships across the public sector, infrastructure/service providers as well as financiers.

In his keynote address, Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, noted that transforming Africa’s energy systems would radically improve prospects for the kind of economic growth that reduces poverty and accelerates progress in improving lives.

Restricted access to energy leaves some of the world’s poorest people paying some of the world’s highest prices for power, he said.

To close those deficits, Annan said, governments must address two distinct but related challenges.

Specifically, Africa needs much more power generation to create jobs and prosperity that its citizens have a right to expect. In addition, it needs an accelerated drive to achieve universal access.

With decisive governance at home and support from the international and corporate communities, Annan said, the continent can extend energy access to every African while avoiding the high carbon pathway to development trodden by the rich world and emerging markets.

Achieving the energy transition in Africa requires that long-term national interest override short-term political gain, vested interests and corruption, Annan said.

“It is intolerable that, in the second decade of the 21st century, so many Africans are living without even the most rudimentary benefits of modern energy.

“There is good news. Over the past year, the momentum for powering up Africa has grown. Now we must scale up those efforts urgently,” Annan said, adding that the time is right for Africa not only to unlock the potential of an energy transformation for its people and its economies, but also to become a pioneering global low-carbon market.

In his remarks, Horst Koehler, Former President, Federal Republic of Germany, urged the developed world to assist African countries with technology as well reduce emissions.

The AfDB has pledged to commit US $12 billion over the next five years to invest in energy alone and ensure there is access to electricity for all Africans by 2025.

President Adesina has proposed five priority areas, dubbed the “High 5s” on which the Bank will focus during his leadership – Lighting up and Powering Africa is among them, and the New Deal on Energy is seen as the vehicle through which the access to all goal can be achieved within a decade.

The goals include expanding grid-power by 160 Gigawatts, connect 130 million people to grid, another 75 million people connected to off-grid sources, and 150 million households to clean cooking energy.

The 51st Annual Meetings are being held under the theme “Energy and Climate Change” and this, according to President Adesina, is for a good reason, because by solving Africa’s electricity challenge, natural resources, such as forests will be saved.