Taking Collective Measures to Ensure Universal Access to Energy in Africa
On 31 January 2011, the Executive Council of the African Union Conference of Ministers responsible for energy issued a declaration related to the First All-Africa Energy Conference, which took place in November 2010, in Maputo, Mozambique.
Jacques Moulot, chief energy expert at the African Development Bank (AfDB), explains the significance of this document.
Question: African Union Heads of State and Government just released a summit declaration related to the First African Energy Week. What are the main contents of this declaration?
Answer: This summit decision is extremely significant because it created two major institutional arrangements in the energy sector in Africa:
First: the All Africa Energy Week. The All Africa Energy Conference was initiated by the Bank as a joint undertaking with, the African Union Commission (AUC) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa. It was hosted by the Mozambican government. It is now an official continental biennial gathering of executive-level stakeholders in the energy sector, to foster accelerated development of energy infrastructure and services for universal access on the continent. The major challenges in the sector will be addressed by facilitating strategic partnerships, knowledge creation, monitoring and evaluation of our successes and shortcomings towards attaining regional energy infrastructure development targets.
Second: the Conference of Energy Ministers of Africa (CEMA). This newly established high-level policy body in the energy sector was launched during the first session of the All Africa Energy Week in Maputo from 1-5 November 2010.
CEMA comes as a mean to streamline and increase the effectiveness of ministers responsible for the energy sector to facilitate collective measures, coordinate actions and provide policy guidance regarding energy development in Africa. Very importantly, the creation of CEMA de facto puts an end to all other previously existing ministerial fora in Africa.
Question: The declaration mentions a “Study on Solar Energy of the Sahara Desert”. What does this entail?
Answer: In the February 2010 XIVth Summit, African Heads of State and Government requested the AUC to commission a study to evaluate the feasibility of harnessing the intense African solar irradiation potential to produce energy for the benefit of the continent. This task was given to the African Energy Commission (AFREC), which presented its initial findings during the AAEW/CEMA meetings. Eventually, the objective is to undertake feasibility studies for using technologies such as Concentration Solar Panel to generating large scale clean electricity for Africa.
Question: Can you explain the initiative mentioned in the document about declaring 2012 as the “International Year of Universal Energy Access”. What are the objectives pursued?
Answer: Access to electricity and modern cooking and heating fuel is now recognized as a basic human need.
Unfortunately, more than two billion people, mostly in developing countries, still lack this access, and suffer from such consequences as diseases, poverty, illiteracy, and degraded living standards.
The UN Economic and Social Council, in its resolutions 1980/67 of 25 July 1980, and the General Assembly resolution 53/199 of 15 December 1998, have made a provision for the Declaration of International Years around themes or events of global concern. It is in this context that a proposal was made to declare 2012 the “International Year for Sustainable Energy” to foster universal energy access.
The main objective would be to bring renewed focus on the urgency for concrete joint actions worldwide to attain universal energy access. All actors and stakeholders, at various levels, will likely design specific visible actions during that year to accelerate energy access. The AfDB will certainly do the same on the continent, and planning for next year should start as soon as possible.