Opportunity Africa: Powering the future, Now, Kofi Annan’s remarks at the AfDB Annual Meetings 2016

Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, Kofi Annan, delivered an opening remarks at the African Development Bank’s (AfDB’s) Annual Meeting High Level Side Event “Africa’s Energy: What’s the New Deal?” on 25 May, 2016.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased so many of you, all influential leaders in your fields, have joined us here in Lusaka today.

The challenge before us is huge. Yet so is the opportunity.

It is unacceptable that today 621 million Africans still do not have access to modern energy.

This intolerable, avoidable and profoundly unjust state of affairs, is harming lives and hindering progress across Africa in myriad ways.

An estimated 600,000 Africans die each year as a result of household air pollution caused by the use of firewood and charcoal for cooking, half of them children under the age of five.

Energy sector bottlenecks and power shortages cost the region 2-4 per cent of GDP annually.

As a result, health care, education and manufacturing capacity all suffer.

This situation also consistently undermines efforts to promote growth and create jobs, at a time when the continent faces a huge youth bulge with millions entering the job market every year.

We need to quickly power up Africa’s future now – so strong partnerships are essential.

I therefore congratulate President Adesina for launching the Africa Development Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa to address the challenge of achieving universal access to energy on the continent by 2025.

I am pleased that numerous partners, including many leaders who are with us here today, have already rallied to the call.

The Africa Progress Panel, which I chair, firmly believes that this generation of African leaders has a unique opportunity to deliver on the promise of energy for all.

That is the main message of our report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities.

Leaders within the public and private sector all have a critical role to play.

African governments must create the right policies and enabling environment.

They need to open up the energy market to drive investment in the sector. Regulatory, policy and sectoral reforms – especially in banking – are essential.

The transformation we seek also requires decisive action on the part of Africa’s leaders in reforming inefficient, inequitable and often corrupt utilities that have failed to provide firms with a reliable power supply and people with access to electricity.

Boosting access to energy will end the cruel paradox in which, cut off from the grid, some of the world’s poorest people pay some of the world’s highest prices for power.

Rolling black-outs across many African countries are not only frustrating for many citizens but also costly for the nation.

Success depends on governments addressing two distinct but related challenges.

First, Africa needs much more power generation to create the jobs and prosperity that its citizens have a right to expect.

Second, Africa needs an accelerated drive to achieve universal access. It is intolerable that so many Africans are living without even the most rudimentary benefits of modern energy.

Every government must draw up strategies to achieve universal access to energy.

At the same time, I urge more investors to see Africa – both on and off-grid – as an opportunity, not a risk.

The financial sector should also be more ambitious in seizing the rich opportunities available in this sector in Africa.

Over the past year, the momentum for powering up Africa has grown. Now we must build on this momentum urgently.

Achieving the energy transition in Africa requires that long-term national interest override short-term political gain, vested interests, corruption and political patronage.

Ambitious, efficient and properly financed multilateral cooperation is also vital to help African countries build their climate change resilience and lay the foundations for a low-carbon future, while making the transition away from fossil fuels.

It is refreshing to see a rise in the number of forward-looking companies driving innovation and seeking opportunities to fund low-carbon development across our continent. Many are also demanding a price on carbon, accelerating the low-carbon transition.

Today we will hear from some of the pacemakers and leading innovators, who are showing the way to turn bold visions into tangible reality.

They are here to inspire us with their personal stories of what can be done, what must be done, and what is being done.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have a great opportunity to power up the future now in Africa.

Let us start today.