It is essential for African governments to build back strong from the coronavirus crisis by placing investments in sustainable energy among the central recovery goals, and linking recovery investment to strengthening the foundation of future sustainable development.
This was said Wednesday by Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Ms Vera Songwe, and Renewable Energy Solutions for Africa (Res4Africa) Secretary General, Roberto Vigotti, in a joint statement following the publication of a study by their institutions exploring the impact of COVID-19 on African economies and their energy sectors.
The study, which was done in partnership with SDA Bocconi and with the support of Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and Ethiopian Women in Energy (EWiEn), analyses the role of renewable energy in the post-COVID-19 phase, providing policy recommendations to sustain growth in a new sustainable equilibrium.
Africa, like the rest of the world, has been severely affected by the spread of COVID-19 in the recent months with an estimated 5 to 29 million people being reduced back to live below the poverty line.
“In this peculiar socio-economic context, the strategic relevance of the energy sector in guaranteeing the well-being of our cities and populations becomes even clearer,” Ms Songwe and Mr Vigotti say in the statement.
In particular, they agree on the need to urgently equip Africa with a network of hospital facilities and health centres with secure and reliable access to electricity along with stimulating the continent’s socio-economic development.
“Access to electricity for the 600 million people in Africa who still do not have it needs to be guaranteed. In this time of uncertainty, investment in building back better is important, including in the vital area of energy transition towards renewable energies,” add Ms Songwe and Mr Vigotti.
“Such investment in sustainable energy will help mitigate the impact of climate change, while widening access to energy. It will be essential, thanks to the economic and financial stimulus that will follow this crisis, to build and strengthen the energy system in a clean and sustainable way, pursuing a deep de-carbonisation and to prepare a more resilient socio-economic system to external shocks such as COVID-19.”
Meanwhile during a Res4Africa and ECA webinar held on “The impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s energy sector”, panellists agreed that building back better will require placing sustainable energy investments at the heart of the continent’s recovery strategy.
The renewable energy sector, they agreed, can play a fundamental role in the fight against the disastrous effects of COVID-19 with stimulus measures to induce economic recovery expected to strengthen the foundation of sustainable development through strategic investments in sustainable energy.
Access to reliable and sustainable energy is a crucial need, and is even more important today for supporting essential services during the global crisis.
The panellists agreed that renewable energy investments at scale will contribute to support sustained economic growth, including by strengthening local value chains and supporting local jobs.
They advocated for policy changes to support investments in sustainable and renewable energy sources to enable structural shifts towards low-carbon and more resilient power systems.
Mr William Lugemwa, Director of the Private Sector Development and Finance Division at the ECA, said post COVID-19, Africa’s private sector would be crucial in leading the much-needed ambitious energy transition. Renewable energy, he said, is crucial for Africa’s recovery from the pandemic.
“We at ECA are committed as ever before to pursue all forms of development cooperation to advance the urgent need of the continent to recover from the rampage of COVID-19 and in providing the necessary policy and technical support to African policy makers in building back and building back better,” said Mr Lugemwa.
For his part, Mr Mateo Di Castelnuovo, Director of the Africa Lab at SDA Bocconi, said; “Evidence shows that renewables are the best for energy supply in health centres, agriculture and education in Africa. A resilient energy system and clean energy transition are fundamental for each country and their recovery path.”
ECA Economic Affairs Officer, Mr Yohannes Hailu, said the United Nations is recommending a series of measures for nations to recover from this crisis and build back better towards sustainable development.
“Health and energy are the first priority and tied together. No development can be sustainable if it leaves several hundreds of million people in the darkness,” he said.
Filagot Tesfaye, EWiEn President, said in Ethiopia there was an increase in the energy exported during the crisis from February to March. She added that medium voltage energy consumption in the country shows unexpected boost while the consumption rate on commercial and residential customers has shown a decline.
For his part, Enel Green Power CEO President, Antonio Cammisecra, said his organisation is “working to offer the investments that were already scheduled in the energy industry to have the most impactful stimulus for recovery. And the only recovery way is through renewables.”
Ms Rabia Ferroukhi of IRENA said her organisation has created an ambitious energy pathway that provides long term decarbonization solutions within the next three years, adding millions of jobs would be created with heightened investments in renewables.
Decisions that governments and public institutions are making now will shape Africa’s development for years to come, the panellist agreed.
Learn More: UNECA