Africa “could be the first continent to go green”: Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan indicated that “Africa has the possibility of being the first continent to become a green continent”, in his remarks last week at a press conference on the ‘New Deal on Energy for Africa’ during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.

Speaking at the event – organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB) on Thursday 21 January – Kofi Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel, reiterated the urgent need for a broader consensus and strengthened regional collective action in solving Africa’s wide energy deficit.

“Looking at the energy issue, it is important for us to look across borders and work with neighbours to generate electricity, not just limited to our own individual countries”, he said.

Africa is desperately short of electricity. According to the Africa Progress Report 2015, Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, some 620 million Africans, accounting for two-thirds of the continent’s population, are without access to electricity. Kofi Annan says this vast energy deficit is “an injustice that robs millions of our fellow citizens of the dignity, opportunity and freedom that comes with access to modern energy”.

The APP Chair feels strongly that Africa’s wealth in renewable resources provide hope that it can eliminate energy poverty and pursue low carbon development.

“If we are able to power Africa and expand the development base, it will have an impact on health, education, manufacturing and a whole range of issues where Africa is left behind”, says Kofi Annan, adding that by “powering Africa, we are also contributing to the fight against climate change, because we are pushing for renewable energy.”

The wastage of scarce resources in Africa’s energy systems remains stark and disturbing. As the 2015 African Progress Report has demonstrated, highly centralized energy systems are underpowered, inefficient and unequal, often benefitting the rich and bypassing the poor.

Kofi Annan challenged African Governments to “use the limited energy efficiently and redirect resources that today go to subsidies, which are not always effective towards creating access to the poor who do not have energy”.

Speaking at the press conference with Kofi Annan, AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina, asserted: “What we take for granted in developed countries is actually a luxury in Africa. Today Africa essentially literally has no power.” This energy deficit, he added, constitutes a significant drag on economic growth. “Power will allow children to go to school, be able to read and be part of the 4th industrial revolution”. He also lauded the contribution of the Africa Progress Report 2015 ‘Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities’, which calls for action on addressing Africa’s energy deficit.

The ‘New Deal on Energy for Africa’ is an AfDB-led initiative that aims to mobilize and accelerate energy investments so that Africa achieves universal access to electricity by 2025. The region needs about US$55 billion – or 3.4 per cent of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) – to meet demand and achieve universal access to electricity.

Photo credit: World Economic Forum.