African Development Bank advices governments to solve energy problem

The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina and the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, have called on African Governments and their partners to do everything possible to close the continent’s huge energy gap.

They made the call on Monday, March 13, 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, at the launch of the Africa Progress Panel Report on “Lights, Power, Action: Electrifying Africa,” which calls for the adoption of every available on-grid and off-grid solutions to light up and power Africa.

Welcoming the gathering, African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina stated that he drew inspiration from the Panel’s previous report in developing the Bank’s High 5 development priorities, which places energy as the top priority.

“Kofi Annan, is the lead champion for the New Deal and I must say, the earlier report of the Africa Progress Panel: ‘Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities’ was what motivated me to launch a massive effort by the Bank on power,” Adesina said.

He was referring to the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa, the first of its High 5s development priorities approved in 2015 with the objective to achieve universal access to electricity in Africa by 2025.

Under the New Deal, the Bank has committed to investing US $12 billion on energy in the next five years and leveraging US $50-60 billion from the private sector and other partners. The goal is to connect 130 million people via grid system, 75 million people via off-grid and provide some 175 million with access to clean cooking energy.

“We’ve moved quickly to tackle this challenge, with strong support from our Board of Governors and Board of Directors. Today, the Bank has a fully established Vice-Presidency for Power, Energy, Climate Change and Green Growth. And we have hired world-class staff to drive our effort to light up and power Africa,” Adesina said, underscoring the US $1.7 billion invested in operations that supported power across 19 countries last year.

“We expect to do this year about US $2 billion for power and leverage US $5-7 billion. The Bank hosts the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, Africa’s bold effort towards accelerating renewable energy,” he added.

The AfDB President commended the Africa Progress Panel for yet another very insightful report which, he said, will help Africa think through how to achieve the off-grid electricity revolution, as part of the comprehensive New Deal on Energy for Africa. “You can count on the African Development Bank, as your strategic partner, to take action on this timely report. We are just so excited and can’t wait to hit the ground.”

Lights, Power, Action notes that the 620 million Africans without access to electricity cannot wait for grid expansion. While grid-connected megaprojects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission, they are slow and expensive. Therefore, Governments must also increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install, the report says.

“What we are advocating is for African Governments to harness every available option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible, so that everyone is included and no one is left behind,” said Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel.

Of the 315 million people who will gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 per cent will be connected to national grids. Most will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems.

Lights, Power, Action is an in-depth follow up to the influential 2015 Africa Progress Report,’Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities’. It urges governments to put in place the incentives needed to encourage greater investment in off-grid and mini-grid systems, protect consumers, and facilitate demand among disadvantaged groups.

Above all, governments need to foster an environment in which companies can enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, climb the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.

“Traditional approaches to extending the grid are no longer viable as the main option for African countries,” Annan said. “They will take too long and will not meet the needs of our growing economies and societies. Instead, governments and their partners need to seize the opportunity to re-imagine their energy futures.”

The report describes the kinds of policies and investments needed to support the ambitious new public and private initiatives now under way that aim to increase energy access swiftly across Africa, especially the New Deal on Energy for Africa, spearheaded by the African Development Bank.

“As our new report shows, where there is good leadership, there are excellent prospects for energy transition,” Annan said. “We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s energy deficit. Now we must focus on implementation. The time for excuses is over. It’s time for action.”