Working together to improve Africa’s energy future

This is a critical time for a complex and important relationship between the European Union and Africa

I am honoured to be joining a group of eminent international figures who provide advice and support for the deepening partnership between the European Union and Africa. This is a critical time for a complex and important relationship.

The IEA and I have for decades devoted particular attention to Africa, notably on strategies to expand access to vital energy services. I believe that joining the High-Level Group of Personalities on EU-Africa relations is an important new step. This is a pioneering and inclusive initiative, bringing together 18 eminent figures encompassing former presidents and prime ministers, leading experts and current and former heads of international organisations.

They include Arancha Gonzalez, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Laureate and former President of Liberia; Mo Ibrahim, Chair and Founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the World Trade Organization; Etienne Davignon, Belgian statesman and inaugural head of the IEA; and Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia. There is more information here on all 18 distinguished members of the group and its work.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges

The Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges – but these are common challenges shared across the world, such as the importance of resilient health care systems and preparing recovery plans that will ensure millions of people who have lost their jobs can emerge from this crisis economically empowered.

Many African countries are particularly vulnerable, making support from other regions crucial. The World Bank forecast earlier this month that Sub-Saharan Africa will in 2020 experience its first recession in 25 years, with the region’s economy contracting between 2.1% and 5.1% as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. This will make key sustainable development goals, such as increasing access to electricity and clean cooking, that much harder to achieve.

Now more than ever, the world needs ground-breaking initiatives that are focused on building a brighter future together. The work of this high-level group on EU-Africa relations – which seeks to help modernise the EU-Africa partnership in order to equip it to meet new challenges  – is a clear example of just such an initiative. It is backed by key founding organisations: the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the ONE Campaign and Friends of Europe.

The IEA has long monitored Africa’s energy sector closely

The IEA has long monitored Africa’s energy sector closely. We have carried out pioneering analysis on energy access issues in the World Energy Outlook series over the past two decades. In recent years, we have deepened our engagement with Africa to help countries advance their clean energy transitions and achieve sustainable economic growth. This has come through greater dialogue with governments and business leaders, increased training programmes for policy makers and expanded analytical work.

Today, we are more committed than ever to enabling Africa to accelerate access to affordable, reliable and cleaner energy and to build more prosperous and resilient economies.

The IEA’s recent Africa Energy Outlook 2019 showed how the energy sector can help Africa realise its growth ambitions while also delivering key sustainable development goals by 2030, including full access to electricity and clean cooking facilities. Our findings show that despite a shift to modern and more efficient energy sources, African countries’ current policy settings aren’t enough to put the continent on track to meet its development needs and provide reliable and modern energy services for all.

One of every two Africans lacks access to electricity, and most health facilities do not have access to electricity. Moreover, Africa has produced just 2% of global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to date, yet the continent is disproportionately on the front line when it comes to the effects of the world’s changing climate.

Together, we need to move the needle and help accelerate the sustainable transformation of African economies

Together, we need to move the needle and help accelerate the sustainable transformation of African economies. In the months ahead, we can build momentum and broaden consensus on how to do this.

I am delighted that IEA data and analysis will now inform the work of the High-Level Group of Personalities on EU-Africa relations, including its recommendations and the preparations and discussions at the African Union-European Union Summit that takes place 28-29 October. We want to ensure decisive actions are taken to bring greater prosperity and more sustainable development for Africa.

Creativity and diversity are critical for delivering prosperity and clean energy transitions in Africa, particularly ensuring progress on the political, social and environmental dimensions of economic development. I am mindful of the IEA’s ever-important responsibility to help countries around the world shape a secure and sustainable energy future, one in which no one is left behind. It is my great honour to be working with this dynamic group to help take on this essential endeavour.