AfDB Annual Meetings: African Leaders Highlight Role of Affordable Energy for Sustainable Development

May 24, 2016

From left to right: AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President Idriss Deby of Chad, President Edgar Lungu of Zambia and Paul Kagame of Rwanda among other dignitaries at the event in Lusaka. Credit: Moses Zangar, Jr./UNDP

African leaders attending this year’s African Development Bank (AfDB) Annual Meetings in Lusaka, Zambia, say the lack of electricity is the greatest hindrance to the continent’s growth and development.

“It is unacceptable that 138 years after Thomas Edison developed the light bulb, hundreds of millions of people cannot have access to electricity to simply light up the bulb in Africa,” the head of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said while addressing a huge gathering of heads of state, ministers, business corporates, civil society and the media at the opening ceremony in Lusaka on Tuesday.

According to AfDB statistics, over 645 million people on the continent lack access to electricity and more than 700 million Africans do not have access to clean energy for cooking and children are learning in the dark, a challenge the Bank seeks to address in ten years through its Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa initiative.

Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa is a bold co-development model which includes several partners: the African Union, the Africa Progress Panel, NEPAD, President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, the World Bank, and Sustainable Energy for All, African Energy Leaders Group, the European Union, the UK Government, China, France, Germany, Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea, India, the private sector and others.

Data from the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative shows that West Africa has the highest energy poverty on the continent. The African Development Bank, which serves as the African Energy Leaders Group (AELG) secretariat, estimates that, to meet the whole continent's energy needs by 2040, a tenfold increase in private investment is needed.

“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, unlock the potential of businesses, and drive much needed industrialization to create jobs,” the AfBD President said.

In his opening address, Zambian President Edgar Lungu said energy shortages and climate variability have played bigger role in dampening growth prospects hence putting the poorest of the continent in a precarious position as far as food security is concerned.                  

“Africa is, without doubt, the perfect place and platform for a discussion on energy and climate matters. Nowhere are the threads connecting energy, climate and development more evident than in Africa. Affordable and reliable electricity underpins every aspect of social and economic life,” President Lungu said, urging stakeholders to take stock of the current state of Africa’s energy and critically examine the energy policies being pursued by countries on the continent.  

Also speaking at the AfDB’s event in Lusaka, Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno and the current President of the Africa Union, underlined the difficult challenges facing many Africa countries afflicted by climate change-induced drought, famine, and conflict, noting that African countries can overcome some of these challenges through coordinated concrete actions. He said, the prerequisite for the development of Africa is the availability of easily affordable energy

The Annual Meetings held under theme “Energy and climate Change, ” are  being attended by over 4,000 participants including eminent persons such as Presidents Idriss Deby of Chad and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Nigeria is represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

Former Presidents John Kufuor of Ghana, Festus Mogae of Botswana, Horst Kohler of Germany, and Mary Robinson of Ireland, are also attending along with some Prime Ministers, and ministers representing their heads of state. Also in attendance are three former Bank Presidents – Babacar Ndiaye of Senegal, Omar Kabbaj of Morocco and Kwame Donkor Fordwor of Ghana.

The Annual Meetings began on the heels of the launch of the African Economic Outlook (AEO) 2016 report, which also took place on Monday 23 May in Lusaka. Titled “Sustainable Cities and Structural Transformation” AEO 2016 highlighted African cities' unique potential in ensuring a sustainable path toward development for the continent.