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Africa needs new approach in tackling energy challenge

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13/02/14

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[ADDIS ABABA] Experts, policymakers, governments and donors are still grappling with key issues in the energy sector facing the African continent, but there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

The official opening session of the 2nd High-Level Meeting of the Africa-European Union Energy Partnership in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, occurred yesterday and proved to be an eye-opener, with stakeholders engaging in frank discussions.

Ultimately, there was an admission of guilt regarding the handling of what all the delegates at the meeting are unanimous is a yawning gap in knowledge management of a scientific approach to energy growth on the African continent.

'Power to the people' is the slogan that has been attributed to revolutions in Africa — political, economic and social — but there seems to be one more source of power that the people of Africa are badly lacking, the energy revolution, a scientifically and economically-driven process.”

Alberto Leny, SciDev.Net

Stakeholders are being honest and nobody is willing to be the ‘foul guy” should Africa fail in fulfilling the ambitious target of connecting electricity to more than 550 million people who are practically in the dark.

“Power to the people” is the slogan that has been attributed to revolutions in Africa — political, economic and social — but there seems to be one more source of power that the people of Africa are badly lacking, the energy revolution, a scientifically and economically-driven process.

Aboubakari Baba Moussa, the director of infrastructure and energy department at the African Union, concurs: “Africa has huge potential, young people and is fastest-growing region in the world.  We have the vision, but we need a clear transformation of experts, policymakers and the economy in managing energy,” he told delegates at the meeting.

Donors too are not afraid to express their reservations about certain aspects of the way Africa is tackling the energy challenge from developmental, technological and financial perspectives.

“We have invested a lot in energy in Africa, but there still lacks a driving force for human and economic development. Africa is yet to take full benefit of partnerships to work together despite the excellent cooperation over the years to step up sustainable energy for all,” says Klaus Rudischhauser, the deputy director-general for development and cooperation at the European Commission.

Yet it is not all bleak, with success stories being mentioned. Gift Tettey, a deputy director, Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, Ghana, mentioned her country’s  experience:  “We had a policy from 1990 to achieve a 15 per cent access rate target of 5,000 megawatts [of electricity] by 2020 with renewable energy contributing 10 per cent to improve the transmission and distribution network”.

With emphasis on efficiency and productive use of energy but not waste, thereby creating employment, developing stand-alone systems and mini grids, Ghana had a positive net result, according to Tettey.

Tettey added: “Since development of policy implementation is currently at 75 per cent, we have now brought back the energy access target of 2020 to 2016”.

Planning and clear implementation strategies can indeed achieve results. Hopefully, African policymakers can take this illuminating example from Ghana and do more to reach the target of ensuring electricity reaches the millions of people who are still in the dark.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk



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