Editorial : Lighting up and powering Africa will quicken economic transformation

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It is estimated that over 640 million Africans have no access to energy, corresponding to an electricity access rate for African countries at just over 40 percent – the lowest in the world.

Access to energy is crucial not only for the attainment of health and education outcomes, but also for reducing the cost of doing business and for unlocking economic potential and creating jobs. That is why the African Development Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa is such a crucial intervention.

The aspirational goal is to help the continent achieve universal electricity access by 2025, with a strong focus on encouraging clean and renewable energy solutions.

Five years into the African Development Bank’s ambitious New Deal on Energy for Africa (NDEA), the Bank’s investments are set to provide electricity access to around 13 million people and deliver about 55,000km of distribution lines, and 6,700km of transmission lines, of which 3,200km are for regional interconnections.

The effort is critical to unlocking Africa’s vast economic potential, enabling the growth of value-adding industries and services; and, most importantly, unleashing the ingenuity of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.

Achieving the objectives of the New Deal on Energy for Africa requires a significant increase in private sector investments.

In 2019, the African Development Bank reported that an additional 96 million African households had gained access to electricity between 2015 and 2019, with countries like Rwanda on track to achieve universal access by 2025.

In spite of this encouraging progress, close to 600 million Africans still lack electricity access and achieving universal access goals under SDG7 still requires greater and swifter efforts to meet the demands of Africa’s growing population.

AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina, is on record as saying: “Africa is simply tired of being in the dark. It is time to take decisive action and turn around this narrative: to light up and power Africa – and accelerate the pace of economic transformation”.

Energy access for all is one of the key drivers of inclusive growth, as it creates opportunities for women, youths and children in both urban and rural areas. We are impressed by the vision and mission of the AfDB to invest about US$12billion between 2016 and 2020, while expecting to leverage US$45 –50 billion in co-financing for energy projects in Africa during the period.

Without universal access to energy, the Sustainable Development Goals and the COP 21 agreement will not be achieved in Africa.

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