Regional and international partnerships will be crucial in ensuring that East African countries leave no one behind with respect to access to clean energy, a senior East African Community official said Monday.
Speaking at the opening of the first Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa 2018, in Kigali, Christophe Bazivamo, the EAC deputy secretary-general in charge of productive and social sectors, called for collaborations among sector players, including between governments, private sector and developing partners.
Nearly 80 per cent of east Africans, he said, live in rural areas and their main source of energy is traditional biomass consisting of fuel wood, charcoal and agricultural waste.
According to the East African Industrialisation Strategy (2012-2032), the EAC seeks to diversify the manufacturing base and raise local value-added content of resource-based exports to at least 40 percent by 2032.
"To achieve our industrialisation targets, we need to accelerate access to sustainable energy and promote energy production for productive uses. We realise that we cannot do this single-handedly. We need to revitalise our regional cooperation and partnership with development partners around the globe," Bazivamo said at the opening of the three-day forum.
Energy is a key priority for the six-nation bloc, he said, adding that ensuring availability of sufficient, reliable, cost effective and environmentally friendly energy sources in the region would facilitate achievement of broader EAC objectives, including attracting investments and promoting regional competitiveness.
In 2013, EAC government ministries in charge of energy directed the bloc's secretariat to seek support from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) on the establishment of an East African Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy and Efficiency (EACREEE).
The objective was to strengthen regional cooperation and to have a platform through which the partner states would speak with one voice on matters related to renewable energy and energy efficiency.
By working together to establish and strengthen EACREEE, partner states demonstrated their resolve to collectively address the challenges of energy poverty, energy security and climate change mitigation simultaneously in an integrated way, officials say.
The ongoing forum in Kigali is focusing on seven thematic areas: access to energy; roadmap of a sustainable energy future for east Africa; financing sustainable energy projects in the EAC; energy and gender in the region; sustainable city development in the region; and geothermal energy.
The EAC Heads of State Summit held in February in Kampala, Uganda, underlined the need to mobilise resources required for the implementation of new and ongoing priority infrastructure projects, including energy.
Rwanda's State Minister for Infrastructure, Germaine Kamayirese, urged participants at the forum to take advantage of the platform and forge effective partnerships for resource mobilisation to implement key infrastructure projects, including the Sustainable Development Goal7 target of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all in the EAC.
"Today's event is yet another manifestation of how much renewable energy and energy efficiency are a priority in transforming our economies and consequently our lives," she said.
"The 2017 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicates that African countries need to meet fast-growing energy demand and extend modern energy services to more communities while also improving people's health and ensuring long-term sustainability.
The continent could meet nearly a quarter of its energy needs through the use of indigenous, clean and renewable energy," Kamayirese added.
The Government of Rwanda, she said, is committed to achieving universal access to sustainable energy by 2024 with a focus on renewable energy resources.
"This requires doubling generation and demand capacities by working closely with development partners."
The forum is jointly organised by Rwanda's Ministry of Infrastructure, the EAC Secretariat, EACREEE, UNIDO, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), and Sustainable Energy For All (SEforALL), a nonprofit working with leaders in government, the private sector and civil society to drive faster action toward achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 7, which calls for universal access to sustainable energy by 2030.
According to Jean Baptiste Havugimana, the EAC director for productive sectors, energy gaps call for decisive action as the regional average cost of energy at the grid is $15 cents, while in Ethiopia, it is at $3 cents.
The forum, among others, seeks to strengthen the regional network and provide a platform for knowledge and experience sharing.
Ivan Twagirishema, the chairperson of Rwandan energy private sector developers, noted that public-private partnerships are very important in efforts to scale up investments in energy sector.
He said: "Renewable energy sector cannot be developed by governments alone. It is also important to have an organised private sector so government will have a group of people to go and talk to."