Africa Oil Week in Dubai started with the Future Energy Series: Africa Ministerial & VIP Symposium. Coming on the heels of the COP26 conference in Glasgow, the discussion during the opening session of AOW21 was not only lively but brought to the fore issues and challenges to energy transition in Africa. For H.E. Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy African Union, the issue is not to about transition but access. Her submission was not only succinct but challenged the pathways to energy transition in a continent where according to her “600 million people don’t have access to electricity”
According to Dr Abou-Zied: “When you say transition, energy transition, it does not exactly apply to us in Africa, because transition means that you are on certain road and you want to go somewhere else but when you don’t have access to electricity then the issue here is access not transition. For Africa, our concern and our agenda in 2063 talks about access to reliable and affordable energy – this is the first point.”
She also mentioned that: “Africa has abundance of resources when it comes to energy: whether renewable or, wind, solar hydro, oil, natural gas, 40 percent of the discovery of gas in the last few years has all been in Africa.’’
“The third reality is that we are the fastest growing continent in terms of population and while most of the world is either stagnant in terms of population, or decreasing or ageing, Africa is getting younger and is getting more people, so our needs are far stronger. We are also the fastest organizing continent, so with organization also comes the needs for fuel for vehicles, energy for buildings, for industrialisation and so on and so forth. Our ambitions are limitless, the sky is the limit.’’
For Dr. Abou-Zeid, the landscape is different from what is talked about in some other parts of the world, and this has to be put on the table of discussion as a starting point: “Now when we talk about Energy, some say Energy transition, Africa is not sparing any effort in that regard. Let us remember that two largest solar power plants in the world are in Africa , some of the largest programmes in wind is in Africa along with geothermal energy, along with hydro etc but the fact remains that the majority of our population need energy now, especially in this context: either it is the recovery of Covid-19…only 25 percent of health centres in sub-Saharan Africa have reliable sources of energy ; and this happening at the very difficult time of health crisis in the world ; so we cannot just wait until technology is perfected to use – maybe a particular source of energy, we would use whatever is out there and all what is out there without exception.’’
She called for an economy of scale when it comes to energy across the continent allowing investors to have harmonised system of policies and regulations instead using or dealing with many policies and regulations among other measures.