The UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4ALL) has launched the African Energy Leaders Group (AELG), bringing together political and economic leaders at the highest level to drive the reforms and investment needed to end energy poverty and sustainably fuel the continent’s economic future.
Launched during the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the AELG will foster deep energy sector reforms, encourage innovative public-private partnerships, promote renewable energy, support technological innovation and seek ways to boost economic gains through the value chain. It will also work to create integrated and commercially viable regional power pools by scaling up investment under existing regional plans.
Providing access for all Africans to reliable, affordable energy services and efficient appliances by 2030 is a key goal, in line with the objectives of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative – that is, to ensure universal access to modern energy services by 2030, while at the same time doubling the rate of improvement of energy efficiency and the share of renewables in the global energy mix.
“The AELG will seek to ensure that the energy sector becomes the driving force for economic transformation for long-term development,” said Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and chief executive of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
Some 625 million people across sub-Saharan Africa – more than two thirds of the total population – have no access to electricity, and many more rely on inefficient, hazardous fuels such as wood or charcoal to cook or heat their homes. Existing power supplies are often inadequate and unreliable, handicapping business and squeezing economic growth.
Africa has generous energy resources, both in fossil fuels and in renewables, but policy reforms and huge investment are needed to fulfil that potential.
Underscoring the AELG’s commitment to uniting the public and private sector in a common goal, the media launch was attended by the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Daniel Kablan Duncan, leading businessman Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, and the President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka.
“This is a very good initiative,” Elumelu told the news conference. “Right here we have investors, we have policy makers and we also have financiers. The combination of these three stakeholders will make this work very well.”
All the speakers highlighted the need for policy reform to stimulate the necessary investment in energy.
“If you want the private sector to be the engine, you need to change the framework,” Kablan Duncan said. “We need to change the framework so they will be interested in investing.”
Kaberuka said it was not enough just to generate energy, but to provide access to those who currently have none. “There are millions of Africans who see power lines going up above them, but they have no access,” he said.
The AELG has been endorsed by the United Nations Development Programme, the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union. The initial launch is for a West African regional sub-group of the AELG, with plans under way for an Eastern African sub-group.
Yumkella called on the private sector to seize the opportunity by innovating and investing in Africa to help bring modern energy services to those who need it, power African economies and help achieve the objectives of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
“It’s practical,” he said. “We want transactions, we want investments. Beyond a forum, we will get ideas but also now see how we can make some of these projects implementable.”
As well as the AELG launch, Yumkella was taking part in three other Africa-focused events at the World Economic Forum: a CEO Breakfast Roundtable on “Unlocking Global Institutional Capital for Africa”; an interactive session with heads of state, business leaders, investors and heads of multilateral institutions on “Closing the Energy Gap in Africa”; and a session on “Reimagining Africa’s Future”, where other speakers are scheduled to include US Secretary of State John Kerry.