Africa has launched an ambitious Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) as the continent’s major contribution to Conference of Parties (COP21) taking place in Paris, France.
The launch of the initiative which aims to produce 300 gigawatts (GW) of electricity for the continent by 2030 is a demonstration of Africa’s leadership in the UN climate negotiations.
The initiative’s goals are to help achieve sustainable development, enhance well-being and sound economic development by ensuring universal access to sufficient amounts of clean, appropriate and affordable energy.
The project also aims to help African countries leapfrog towards renewable energy systems that support their low-carbon development strategies while enhancing economic and energy security.
The initiative is expected to deliver 10 GW of new and additional electrical installed capacity by 2020 and 300 GW by 2030.
AREI is an outcome of African leadership in Workstream II of the Durban Platform including their May 2014 proposal for a global renewable energy support programme.
The initiative has been endorsed by African Heads of State (AU Assembly and Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change) and Ministers of Environment (AMCEN) the G7 (Elmau Summit) the G20 (Energy Summit).
Speaking during the launch of the project at the Africa Pavillion in Paris, Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), one of the major sponsors of the initiative, said the institution has tripled its financing to climate change initiatives.
“We are aware that Africa needs massive financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. That is why we are dedicating 40 per cent of our resources to such efforts,” Adesina said.
He regretted that Africa is often referred to as a dark continent because majority of the residents have no access to electricity.
“Africa has 640 million of its people who don’t have access to electricity. A total of 7 million Africans have no access to clean energy and majority use charcoal and kerosene. This always leads to deaths. We must stop this,” Adesina said.
He added, “The initiative is a game-changer as Africa loses 4 per cent of its GDP due to lack of clean energy. Let us use our abundant sunshine to light our homes and our water to generate clean energy. This investment must bring electricity to our people. ”
The AfDB also launched $300 million which will be given as loans for women to engage in smart environmental businesses as a way of empowering them.
Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s Environment Cabinet Secretary who represented President Uhuru Kenyatta at the meeting, welcomed the initiative, noting it is important as it will reduce carbon emission.
“Clean energy is important and its production and utilisation will reduce the carbon emission and save the environment. Kenya welcomes the AfDB initiative and we are ready to engage in massive solar and wind energy production to attain 100 per cent electricity reach for our people,” Wakhungu said.
Wilbur Ottichilo, Kenyan Member of Parliament for the Emuhaya Constituency who is part of the Kenyan delegation, said the project demonstrates that Africa is in charge of it is destiny.
“As a continent, we are demonstrating that we can take care of our problems and time for asking for favours is over. Let us use the resources we have to solve our problems,” he said.
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), applauded the initiative on renewable energy, terming it transformative.
“We need to light up Africa and practice smart agriculture. This will save the dwindling waters of our lakes and transform the lives of our women, who bear the brunt of climate change. We should invest more in technology and innovation so that we equip our youths with the necessary skills to transform our continent,” she said.
Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), supported the initiative.
“Affordable and renewable energy is critical for Africa. The continent does not need fossil fuel but low carbon power which should come from hydropower, biomass, marine, geothermal, wing, solar,” Lopes said.
He decried the low penetration of power on the continent saying this affects development.
“The annual production of 160 GW of power by the continent is not even half of Japan’s capacity. What Sub-Saharan Africa produces is less than what South Africa produces. Time to act is now to change the situation,” Lopes said.
President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin said the new energy deal will promote food security. “We need energy to transform our agriculture. Let us not rely on the fluctuating rains but invest in new technology to grow our economies,” Boni Yayi said.
Mohamed Monem, who represented the President of AMCEN, Khaled Fahmy, who is also Egypt’s Minister for Environment, thanked the Governments of France and Germany for their support to the initiative. “The two governments have supported the programme and have been instrumental in its adoption. We appreciate them and now we must embark on the project and not look back,” Monem said.
Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development’s Planning and Coordinating Agency, and Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, AUC’s the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, also supported the project, noting that it will save the lives of Africans who will be able to access clean energy.