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"Climate change issue is not too much in focus. We hope for a change and that NEPAD Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (NEPAD-IPPF) will have this more as a policy issue", said Mr. Rolv Bjelland, Senior Energy Advisor to the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-Operation (NORAD) in an interview with the African Development Bank’s internal newsletter. NORAD, which lays special emphasis on assistance that benefits the poorest sector of the community, has shown special interest in NEPAD Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility, a facility hosted at the African Development Bank Group that provides technical services in the preparation of infrastructure projects in Africa.
Mr. Emmanuel Ngwainmbi of the NEPAD, Regional Integration and Trade Department spoke with him in Tunis recently when he was attending the 7th Oversight Committee Meeting.
Question: You recently attended the 7th NEPAD-IPPF Oversight Committee meeting in Tunis. This being your second appearance, would you say the NEPAD-IPPF Special Fund has made any progress?
Answer: Yes - It looks like NEPAD-IPPF is speeding up in a promising way.
Question: How does the Norwegian government view infrastructure development as a conduit to regional integration in Africa? Infrastructure is, for sure, an important component in Africa’s development.
Answer: The Norwegian government has a special focus on power, hydro power development and climate issues. We will also have a special focus on energy issues in SADC these days, since Norway through the embassy in Maputo, is responsible for coordination of the energy donor group in SADC.
Question: Norwegian government has signed an agreement contributing NOK 45 million to the NEPAD-IPPF Special Fund. Exactly when will these funds be disbursed and for which specific purposes?
Answer: The first disbursement of NOK 15 million was made in 2007 and the rest of the allocation is planned to be released in 2008 and 2009.
Question: Does the Norwegian government have a specific interest in identifying specific infrastructure projects in Africa?
Answer: The Norwegian allocation to the IPPF fund is not tied to specific projects. Our focus will be to support projects on renewable energy and climate change.
Question: Do you think this contribution would make Africa an important business partner for your region?
Answer: This will not be of focus for our contribution as such.
Question: Are there specific projects the Norwegian government would like to see financed with its contribution?
Answer: The Norwegian contribution will, as earlier mentioned, not be tied to specific projects, but we hope that the Norwegian involvement will boost the energy sector in countries where we already are active.
Question: You have recently mentioned climate change as an interest area, do you foresee your government proposing specific measures linked to use of the funds in addressing climate change in Africa?
Answer: We noticed during the meetings in Tunis that the climate change issue was not too much in focus. We hope for a change and that NEPAD-IPPF for the future will have this more as a policy issue.
Question: More information on the implementation of the NEPAD infrastructure program and projects will become available to the people of Norway in the near future through different media networks, including the AfDB’s website. Are NGOs making plans for investments and partnerships with African countries?
Answer: Norwegian NGOs are very much involved in Africa, but I am not aware of partnerships between NGOs and African Countries.
Question: Currently, the NEPAD-IPPF Oversight Committee which oversees decision- making consists of 6 members with 3 slots for representatives of contributing countries, but Norway is not a participating member. Is it eager to join soon?
Answer: We regard it as most important that NEPAD-IPPF function as an efficient organization with an operational and not too large Oversight Committee. It is therefore not a "must" for us to have a seat on the Committee as long as we have a mechanism and channel for our voice.
Question: For how long does your government intend to contribute to the NEPAD-IPPF Special Fund?
Answer: This will depend on how the fund will perform and also how it fits into the Norwegian development strategy in the future.
Question: When Norway’s financial contribution becomes official, would you be interested in serving on the Oversight Committee?
Answer: We will, from the Norwegian side, be very ready to participate in the OC if we are requested to do so. The Norwegian embassy in Mozambique will play an important role in this context since they are responsible for coordination of the energy donor group in SADC.
Question: What suggestions would you like to make to the business of the NEPAD-IPPF meeting?
Answer: I would say it should have a result-oriented focus where the volume of papers presented to be read is reduced.
Mr. Bjelland has worked for the Norwegian Electricity Regulator; NVE, where he developed the framework for regulation of network companies and the interface between network and energy sale when the electricity sector was restructured in Norway in the 1990s. He has also spent many years in Tanzania, Namibia, Uganda and other African countries working in different development capacities. Mr Bjelland joined NORAD 3 years ago when energy again became a focus area.
Contact: Emmanuel Ngwainmbi, NEPAD, Regional Integration and Trade Department, AfDB, Tel: +216 71 10 26 27, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org