20 May 2014

Rwanda: Kaberuka - Africa Cannot Transform Without Energy

The president of the African Development Bank, Dr Donald Kaberuka, yesterday challenged African governments to pursue ways to prioritise and avail sustainable energy for all, saying it is indispensable to the transformation of the continent.

Dr Kaberuka said benefits resulting from availing sustainable energy extended beyond the energy sector in ways such as eradicating poverty, increasing food production, providing safe water, among others.

The AfDB president was speaking at the launch of Africa chapter of the Sustainable Energy For All in Kigali yesterday.

The global initiative was started in 2011 to ensure universal access to energy services, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global mix.

"There is not enough public money to do this; we need to mobilise the private sector. This can happen when we have regulators that are independent in fact and in law, utilities that function and tax systems that are socially not only fair but also economically viable," Dr Kaberuka said.

Cutting the red tape:

He gave an example of the telecommunications industry that until reforms in the mid-1990s was dominated by the public sector.

"It is not possible for every country to have complete energy security on their own. It is not economically feasible. We have to make regional power markets functional. This is where countries can meet their energy deficits by importing," the AfDB chief said.

Citing the Lao People's Democratic Republic, a landlocked country in southeast Asia, Dr Kaberuka said the State exports energy to the tune of $1 billion to Thailand and Ethiopia.

The Minister for Infrastructure, Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, who featured as a panellist during the launch, said Rwanda has aligned its energy plans in accordance with the initiative.

He said the country had a target to reach 100 per cent of the population in the long-term, but is targeting 70 per cent of the population by 2020.

To achieve this, Lwakabamba said, it would require a lot of resources, some of which would be sourced through private-public partnerships.

"A recent study indicated that if we invested in efficiency, we would save a significant amount of energy that is lost during transmission. We also need to improve on efficiency by producing more of hydroelectric power; about half of the 110 megawatts we produce is from diesel and fuel, which is costly," the minister said.

He added that Rwanda was pursuing renewable energy sources such as geothermal, methane and hydropower.

Dr Kandeh Yumkella, the UN special secretary-general's representative of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, urged countries to bring on board all sectors, including civil society, to contribute to level decisions and actions on energy provision.

Yumkella said without access to energy for all, Africa cannot bridge the digital divide or attract private sector investments.

Speaking on the sidelines of the panel discussions, Lamin Manneh, the UN resident coordinator, said the initiative was a step in the right direction since it would address development issues as well as improve livelihoods.

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