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Commissioner Elham Ibrahim briefs the press on activities of the Department of Infrastructure and Energy and its contribution to Human Rights

By African Union Commission (AUC)
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The Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, H.E Mrs. Elham Mahmood Ibrahim during her press conference at the margin of the 26th AU Summit which brought together renowned media representatives from all over the continent at the African Union Commission discussed the Theme: “Infrastructure and its contribution to Human Rights”. The Commissioner was addressing the press conference in the presence of Mr. Baba Moussa, Director for Infrastructure and Energy at the AU Commission.

The Commissioner stated that the theme of this year is the year of Human Rights with particular focus on the rights of women and that infrastructure is one of the important elements that can support the implementation of women's rights in particular and human rights in general. It can be in terms of transport, information and communication technology and of course energy.

On the issue of Transport and Human Rights, the Commissioner stressed on the importance of the free movement of persons and goods across the continent (physical and non-physical barriers to transport), which will enhance the Ten Years Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063. She referred to the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community. “The transport sector has been given high priority as the major means of achieving this objective...The right to transport for all African citizens is part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”, underscored Commissioner Elham Ibrahim. She further presented the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) aimed at facilitating the development of transport networks (air, sea, road and rail) that are interconnected, efficient, reliable and sustainable. She said the AU Commission is working hard to "Interconnect, integrate and transform Africa." while facilitating physical and economic access to transport through improvement of transport infrastructures, efficient transport services, affordable to the majority of the people, sustainable transport include safety, and respect for the environment. This is guided by series of policy and regulatory frameworks.

The Commissioner informed the journalists that PIDA in the transport sector include:

Completion of missing links in the Trans-African Highways (TAH) to interconnect the continent with roads with harmonized standards and norms;

Restoration and strengthening of the railway networks and development of a Continental High Speed Railway Network;

Acceleration of market liberalization of air services through the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision and integrating the African sky with an advanced satellite air navigation system;

Development of airports to increase air interconnectivity while ensuring compliance with ICAO safety and security requirements;

Launch of Smart Corridors including both the development of a model technology and design and implementation of continental and regional systems for monitoring the effectiveness of these corridors;

Development of capacity and performance of main ports sufficient to meet the future demand of coastal and landlocked countries;

Minimising and simplification of border procedures including visa restrictions and customs formalities.

Commissioner Ibrahim further stated that the PIDA would lead to the construction of more than 37,000km of roads, 30,000km of railways, increased ports capacity of 1.3 billion tons and flight connectivity as the establishment of a Single Air Transport Market.

Other legal and regulatory issues such the Civil aviation: consumer protection, competition regulations, dispute settlement mechanism, regulations to enforce the role of AFCAC, the maritime charter, road safety charter ( Africa has 1% of world fleet of automobiles, but produce one third of the road accidents), were also addressed by the Commissioner.

Regarding the ICTs sector, the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Egergy said these are a provider of enabling environment for physical infrastructure and services development of applications for generation, transmission, and processing, storing and disseminating information in all forms such as voice, text, data, graphics and video. “ICTs are deeply integrated into our daily working and social lives”, she emphasized. Adding that, ICTs enable billions of people to communicate, share ideas, acquire knowledge, increase livelihood and improve their quality of life. ICTs also promote greater transparency and enhance many fundamental human rights — such as the right to health, education, freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression.

The same technology can also be used by governments to facilitate access to information, fight crime, assist in emergencies, but to some extent it can also be used to restrict human freedom.

Social Media and e- government services alsoenable humanrights by providing access to information, which can then be used toenhance the social and economic development.Advantages ICTs and e-applications are multiple:

Provision of improved public services (e.g. ID cards); Remote voting mobile banking and new markets for trade and commerce. AU Convention on cyber-security and personal data protection.

This convention was adopted in June 2014 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government

IT is a regulatory framework on e-transactions, cyber-security, personal data protection and fight against cybercrime.

Commissioner Ibrahim underlined the importance to promote a culture of cyber security on the continent in order to get a common approach on the security of the cyberspace and set up a minimum standards and procedures to define a credible digital environment for developing the electronic communications.

Regarding the Energy sector, the Commissioner pointed out that for Africa the biggest priority in the Energy Sector is access to energy as more than 620 million, out of 915 million people, have no access to electricity. She noted that number of people with no access to energy is rising especially in the Sub- Saharan Africa. To that effect, she said there is need to add around 300 GW of capacity by 2030 to meet the energy demand growth. “Energy is a cross-cutting issue affecting all sub-sectors and aspects of society” noted the Commissioner.

Commissioner Ibrahim prescribed the following relevance of energy to Human Rights:

Right to a decent standard of living, including productive use of energy; right to education (reading and studying even without sunlight); gender empowerment considering that the majority of those affected by toxic fumes from cooking using unclean biomass are women and children. Access to energy is a basic human need, a pre-requisite for a life in dignity and the full enjoyment of human rights. “Energy services are a crucial input to the primary development challenge of providing adequate food, shelter, clothing, water, sanitation, medical care, schooling, and access to information” According to the World Energy Assessment, in 2004 it was clearly indicated that the lack of modern energy services leads to millions of premature deaths per year Situations of humanitarian crisis call for a variety of interventions for which the availability of modern energy supply is crucial. With regards to the proven link between climate change and natural disasters leading to humanitarian crises (e.g. in small islands or sea-bordering countries),.

Commissioner Ibrahim reiterated the need to accelerating development of renewable energy and other sources; facilitating regional and continental clean power generation and transmission projects; and, developing guidelines on renewable energy, particularly in geothermal and bio-energy.

Finally the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy of the AU presented the activities implemented in 2015 by her department. These included the following programs and initiatives:

The Africa Hydropower 2020 Initiative and Inga Project; Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility (GRMF); Bio-energy Policy and Strategy Framework; Africa-EU Energy Partnership and Renewable Energy Cooperation Program; Sustainable Energy for All Initiative;

Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI 10 GW2020, 300 GW 2030).