African and European high level meeting on energy calls for continued cooperation to ensure access to energy by Africans across the continent
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, February 13, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Second High Level Meeting of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership was held at Ministerial level on 13th February at the African Union, with calls from different speakers for continued efforts to ensure access to energy by Africans across the continent. The energy partnership is one of the eight partnerships of the EU-Africa Joint Strategy, which was adopted in December 2007, in Lisbon, Portugal.
Speaking during the opening of the ministerial session meeting, the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr Elham Ibrahim, focused on the progress and importance of the initiatives launched by the African Union Commission and its partners, since the inception of the AEEP. She spoke specifically on the Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility, which encourages public and private sector geothermal development projects by providing cost share grants for surface studies and drilling of reservoir confirmation wells. “Under the facility, grants have been awarded to 5 projects in Kenya and Ethiopia, amounting to 22 million US dollars, and other agreements will be signed in March this year,” she announced.
The Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy for Ethiopia, Mr. Alemayehu Tegenu highlighted the importance of appropriate and robust national policies and strategies in the success of Africa's energy ambitions. He pointed to several projects which have been initiated in Ethiopia as a result of the nation's focus on integrating energy into the core of its national and development agenda. These include: the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the Gibe Three hydropower projects which will produce almost 9,000 megawatts of electricity between them when completed; and Ethiopia's pioneering wind farms which he said, are the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa
In an inspirational message, the UN Special Representative for Sustainable Energy For All programme, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella emphasised the need for governments and continental organisations to integrate sustainable energy into their agendas, and the need for co-operation amongst the different government ministries to achieve energy goals. He re-iterated that without effective use and generation of energy supplies, there can be no effective development, as energy is vital to success in all other sectors including health, manufacturing, trade and communication. “We cannot create the 10 million jobs that Africa needs, without industrialisation and for that we need energy”, he said.
The Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Erastus Mwencha, closed the opening session of the meeting with a pointed reminder of the final aim of Africa's development agenda, “The ultimate African ambition in energy is clearly about providing modern energy services to all its citizens”, he said.. The Deputy Chairperson highlighted some of the challenges faced by Africa today in terms of access to energy: “We still have almost 500 million Africans without access to reliable electricity, over 70% of our population relying on traditional biomass stoves for meeting their cooking needs, with severe health implications and mortality amongst women and children; and the low access to modern energy services for productive applications is threatening industrial and economic development in the continent, especially in crucial sectors that are important for jobs creation such as the agricultural and manufacturing sectors”, said Mr Mwencha. He added that Africa would require both large scale and small scale modern energy solutions in addressing the problem. He called on all actors, stakeholders and partners to find common ground in working together for the ultimate goal of providing modern energy access to all Africans in the coming decades.
Several countries in Africa are achieving impressive results in the energy sector. These include Ghana, which has achieved over 80% energy access for its citizens, and expects to exceed 90% access by 2015. Similarly, as of 2010, South Africa, Gabon, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt all have energy accessibility of over 80%.
The meeting was also addressed by several delegates from the European side including Mr Andries Pielbags, EU Commissioner for Development Cooperation (via video link); Mr Christian Schmidt, Deputy Minister of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany: and Mr Andreas Melan, Austrian Ambassador to Ethiopia. It was attended by African and European Ministers, Commissioners, business leaders and other high-level delegates.
The AEEP is one of the partnerships forged as a result of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, which encompasses eight areas of co-operation. These are: Peace and Security; Democratic Governance and Human Rights; Trade, regional integration and infrastructure; the Millennium Development Goals; Energy; Climate Change; Migration, mobility and employment; and Science, Information Society and Space.
Outcomes of the conference will be available on the African Union website www.au.int soon.