Covid Post X

African experts and policymakers attending a high-level virtual dialogue on Saturday emphasized the need to place energy transition at the heart of Africa’s COVID-19 response.

They made the call as the African Union (AU) Commission and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) held a virtual high-level dialogue to discuss Africa’s needs in responding to the COVID-19 crisis and the role of the energy transition in the post-pandemic recovery.

AU and IRENA host ministers and intergovernmental leaders to discuss continent’s roadmap to recovery.

The dialogue brought together a number of ministers and high-level participants from Africa, Europe, the European Union, as well as Vice Presidents of the World Bank and African Development Bank (AfDB), the UNDP Administrator, the Director-General of IRENA as well as representatives of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL).

During the two-hour virtual event led by the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Amani Abou-Zeid, and IRENA Director-General, Francesco La Camera, participants highlighted that energy potential in Africa can turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity for the continent and its population.

The experts and policymakers agreed that energy transition is critical to both the response to the crisis and to the post-pandemic recovery.

“The energy sector cannot sit back and only react, it has to join in the fight as well while at the same time positioning itself to play a pivotal role in the recovery after the crisis. Through this forum, we hope to share the actions taken by various countries and organizations and the results they have had. This will provide lessons that will be instrumental in shaping the response and preparing for recovery,” AU Commissioner Amani Abou-Zeid said.

The AU commissioner also highlighted the measures that the AU had taken including conducting wide consultations with regional and global stakeholders and developing an emergency, resilience and recovery action plan, which was adopted by the Bureau of African energy ministers on 12thMay 2020.

IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera hailed the collaboration with the AU, noting that their commitment to work together in the wake of the pandemic was starting to yield results with the high-level dialogue as a milestone.

“Accelerating the energy transformation can help Africa respond to COVID-19, while allowing the continent to meet its medium and long-term objectives of a de-carbonized, just and prosperous society,” Camera said.

“IRENA will continue to work closely with the African Union and partners to create pathways for accelerated renewable energy deployment in Africa, to bolster resilience in the face of the current pandemic while building a future of health, wealth and opportunity for millions of people across the continent,” he said.

UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, who emphasized the role of renewable, also stressed that “the impact of COVID-19 on African economies is a major setback. Rapid policy responses across the continent have helped to mitigate the health crisis but socio-economic impacts could erode development gains of recent years.”

“Expanding access to electricity through a bold expansion of ‘on-grid’ and ‘off-grid’ renewable energy is a major opportunity in the context of national stimulus and recovery programmes. They are economic, fast, shovel ready options to address energy poverty and accelerate Africa’s transition towards a clean energy economy of the 21st century,” Steiner said.

Participants also observed that the adverse impacts of the pandemic are stretching the African energy sector’s capabilities thin.

Unless urgent measures are taken to preserve the sector and prepare it for the post-pandemic recovery, the energy situation could impede the continent’s ability to cope with the crisis and economic downturn, ministers noted. Speakers agreed that it is imperative that the COVID-19 pandemic does not dampen efforts to increase energy access and clean cooking solutions which remain a major challenge in Africa, they argued.

Around 548 million people still live without access to electricity and 894 million people lack clean cooking solutions, it was noted.

“The immediate priority for the African continent is to save lives, bring the health emergency under control and alleviate associated economic hardship,” the experts emphasized.

They, however, stressed that recovery measures adopted should also address long-term development and create resilient economies.

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