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People-centric approach critical as energy investment hits $303bn

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Experts have expressed concerns over the energy outlook in Africa as the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) stated that investment in renewable energy increased by two per cent to $303 billion in 2020.

Speaking at a virtual programme organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair on Energy for Sustainable Development at the Politicnico Di Milano, in Milan, Director, UNDP Rome, Musonda Mumba said over 759 million people are still without access to electricity, globally as 2.6 billion people have remained without access to clean cooking solutions.

Canvassing innovative ways to address energy poverty in 2018, Mumba said financial flows to developing countries to support clean energy amounted to $14 billion, adding that despite the pandemic, “We have seen the investments in renewable capacity increased by two per cent to $303 billion in 2020.”

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Speaking further at the event, which was tagged ‘Energy – Development Nexus: Towards a People-Centred Approach and hosted by UNESCO Chairholder, Emanuela Colombo, Mumba noted that Africa, with growing youthful population must encourage young people to innovate solutions so existing energy challenges, especially through an enabling environment.

“Energy issues in Africa, particularly around cooking, is a matter of life and death,” she noted, adding that the inter connectivity of the development with other sectors and other critical challenges, especially deforestation and pollution underpinned the need to prioritize initiatives for lasting solutions.

Stating that the development, if not sustainably tackled, may continue to worsen biodiversity loss and create health burden, Mumba said the Covid-19 pandemic should force Africa to rethink how energy is delivered.

Noting that the health sector, agriculture and other sectors of the economy may remain under-developed without access to energy, Mumba said policy makers, especially politicians must create leeway that would sustainably address energy concerns.

She added that there was a need for a policy shift that would encourage young people, who are innovating to build technologies without facing the barrier of taxation, absence of financial resources and others.

“Africa is a young continent. The average age on the African continent is 19 years old, it’s a no brainer. Can we start rethinking how universities are designing training around energy that is very fit for purpose and relevant to the spaces? We need to look at how universities are looking at sensitization to young people and also providing platforms to share knowledge,” Mumba said.

Colombo noted that there was a need for Africans to design or get involved in designing a tailored solution to the energy challenges on the continent.

She equally added that while the inter-sectoral approach to the issue is necessary, building a much better system should be a priority.

Colombo also stressed the need for capacity development, not only for the sake of delivering training hours for the people but for the sake of building the next generation of Africans.

Colombo also noted the need for the right policy, stressing that the market may not change by itself except with the involvement of key policy makers, adding that, “we still need the governmental intervention and government action, which need to be done in a more holistic manner looking at all the cross sectoral linkages.”

Consultant and Faculty Member, Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law, University of Ibadan, Temilade Sesan, who stressed on the need to factor gender-based realities in designing energy solutions noted that strengthening the physical linkages between rural and urban communities remained critical to addressing energy issues.

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Speaking on the need for sectoral linkages in designing energy solutions, Sesan said energy is connected to many development sectors, adding that promoting energy within a broader development, especially in terms of employment, health, education, agriculture, food security and other is necessary.

She equally stressed the need for financial schemes for energy access, especially low interest loans that would enable people to acquire solar home systems.

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Starthmore University, Nairobi, Izael Da Silva, who also spoke at the event noted that the continent must not continue to look out for others to solve existing problems, stressing “We must be able to solve our own problems. There’s no shortcut.”

Silva said: “Of course, I feel we should do a lot more in terms of providing financial structures, which can work for us in terms of adopting the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency agenda.

He insisted that there was a need to build capacity on the continent, noting that with the right training the continent could breed great minds that would change the game.

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