Overcoming Africa’s energy gap

In June 2019, www.res4africa.org hosted its 7th Annual Conference “Overcoming Africa’s Energy Access Gap” for the first time in the African continent. The event marked a few special occasions: “Usually held in Rome, this is the first annual conference that takes place on African soil; it is also our first official event as RES4Africa Foundation after officially transitioning from association to foundation last week” explained Antonio Cammisecra, President RES4Africa Foundation and CEO Enel Green Power, “Bringing the Annual Conference to Africa offers a unique opportunity to consolidate and expand RES4Africa’s well-established dialogue with key public and private sector stakeholders, multilateral institutions and civil society organizations working on accelerating access to clean energy as a foundation for inclusive and sustainable development in Africa”.

Africa faces tremendous opportunities for growth in the coming decades, characterized by dynamic economic and population growth, rapid urbanization and an expanding middle class with changing lifestyles. Still, achieving universal access to energy by 2030 is crucial to ensure sustainable growth and requires a significant scale up in renewable energy investments. Bridging the energy access finance gap will necessitate private, public and development financing actors to mobilize additional investment capital. The conference provided a strategic and timely discussion point on how to enable a step-change in attracting renewable energy investments to Africa.

The conference agenda focused on defining strategic priorities on three main topics including innovative approaches, market barriers and financing instruments. Organized in three sessions, the conference looked at how the water-energy-food nexus provides an innovative approach to help overcome Africa’s energy access gaps and engender important socio-economic development. The session was kicked off by the launch of the 2019 Flagship Publication “Africa’s Future Counts”, and was further unpacked during a panel discussion. The second session was dedicated to overcoming barriers affecting African RE market growth. Also accompanied by the report “What does it take to accelerate RES investments in Africa” carried out in collaboration with Pöyry PLC and with the support of Enel Foundation, the discussion outcome defined an African agenda for action on how to reach universal access to energy by 2030.

The third session promoted new instruments to bridge market gaps and effectively accelerate and attract investments. The discussion also touched on renewAfrica, a recently launched initiative that promotes the creation of a new European program to support renewable energy investments in Africa. Moreover, in light of the longstanding REN21-RES4Africa partnership, REN21 also presented the key points of its 2019 Global Status Report with a focus on African data.

“We work relentlessly with our Ethiopian partners, and are very happy to do so: we held our Program Launch here two years ago; we returned in March for a B2G workshop attended by more than 100 people, held executive seminars and carried out studies to support the Ethiopian government in the transition to renewable energy. In addition to this, our Micro-Grid Academy, usually based in Nairobi, is hosting an On-Tour session here in Addis Ababa this week” stated Roberto Vigotti, Secretary General RES4Africa Foundation, “As RES4Africa we work in three ways: public-private dialogue, technical support and market intelligence, capacity building and training. This week we are putting all three of them in practice at the same time, here in Addis Ababa”.

This year’s event was hosted in light of RES4Africa’s cooperation efforts with the African Union Commission, IRENA and UNECA, as well as with the support of the Ethiopian government. Moreover, the event also marked the public launch of RES4Africa Foundation’s 2019 flagship publication “Africa’s Future Counts”: part of a series of annual features that focus on specific key priorities and themes about Africa’s sustainable energy future, this edition presents the enabling role that new business models based on the water-energy-food nexus approach can play in achieving energy access and sustainable development, with a significant role played by renewable energy solutions.

“Renewable energy is key to achieving the United Nations’ SDGs and tackling climate change. Renewables are now the least-cost source of new power generation in most countries today and they represent our most effective way to expand energy access” added Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA, “Moreover, renewable energy is the key enabler of human health, the environment and global prosperity. Global leaders must come together to accelerate the energy transition”.

“We cannot talk of a prosperous Africa without energy at the heart of it. We need energy for the CFTA, education, health and jobs for our growing youthful population and enhanced opportunities for women” concluded Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of UNECA, “Our partnership with RES4Africa Foundation and others is not just a partnership where we meet and have conversations but one that translates ideas into action for an Africa where no one gets left behind in terms of energy access”.

The event was attended by high-level policy and decision makers including Seleshi Bekele, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity of Ethiopia; Emanuela Del Re, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI) of Italy; Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA; Luca Maestripieri, Director of Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), and included representatives from private sector, government, IFIs, international organizations and civil society.

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