Kofi Annan urges scale up investment in energy to unlock Africa’s potential

Former United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Kofi Annan has urged African governments, investors, and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to significantly scale up investment in energy to unlock Africa’s potential as a global low-carbon superpower.

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This was contained in a new report from Kofi Annan’s “Africa Progress Panel, Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities.”
The report calls for a ten-fold increase in power generation to provide all Africans with access to electricity by 2030.

This, the report noted would reduce poverty and inequality, boost growth, and provide the climate leadership that was sorely missing at the international level.

“We categorically reject the idea that Africa has to choose between growth and low-carbon development,” said Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel. “Africa needs to utilize all of its energy assets in the short term, while building the foundations for a competitive, low-carbon energy infrastructure.”
In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), 621 million people lack access to electricity and this number keeps rising.
Power shortages diminish the region’s growth by 2-4 per cent a year, holding back efforts to create jobs and reduce poverty.

Despite a decade of growth, the power generation gap between Africa and other regions kept widening.
Nigeria is an oil exporting superpower, but 95 million of the country’s citizens rely on wood, charcoal and straw for energy.

The report reveals that households living on less than US$2.50 a day collectively spend US$10 billion every year on energy-related products, such as charcoal, kerosene, candles and torches.
Measured on a per unit basis, Africa’s poorest households are spending around US$10/kWh on lighting, which is 20 times more than Africa’s richest households.

By comparison, the national average cost for electricity in the United States is US$0.12/kWh and in the United Kingdom is US$0.15/kWh.
“This is a significant market failure. Low-cost renewable technologies could reduce the cost of energy, benefiting millions of poor households, creating investment opportunities, and cutting carbon emissions,” the former UN Chief said.

The report says Africa’s leaders must start an energy revolution that connects the unconnected, and meets the demands of consumers, businesses and investors for affordable and reliable electricity.
The 2015 Africa Progress Report urges African governments to use the region’s natural gas to provide domestic energy as well as exports, while harnessing Africa’s vast untapped renewable energy potential, cut corruption, make utility governance more transparent, strengthen regulations, and increase public spending on energy infrastructure.
The report urges Africa to redirect the US$21 billion spent on subsidies for loss-making utilities and electricity consumption which it notes benefit mainly the rich towards connection subsidies and renewable energy investments that deliver energy to the poor.

The report also calls for strengthened international cooperation to close Africa’s energy sector financing gap, estimated to be US$55 billion annually to 2030, which includes US$35 billion for investments in plant, transmission and distribution, and US$20 billion for the costs of universal access.

A global connectivity fund with a target of reaching an additional 600 million Africans by 2030 is needed to drive investment in on- and off-grid energy provision. Aid donors and financial institutions should do more to unlock private investment through risk guarantees and mitigation finance.

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