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Just before the Africa Energy Forum (AEF) arrives in Mauritius from 19-22 June to celebrate its 20th anniversary, we hear from some of the energy industry’s most respected decision-makers on how the Forum provided a platform for the development of Africa’s energy sector.
By providing an annual networking platform for the sector, AEF has been a catalyst for partnerships, project investment and ultimately progress. In 20 years, the Forum has grown from 2 sponsors and 200 delegates to 130 sponsors and 2,000 delegates. During this time the increasing number of power developers and financial institutions, not to mention the growing number of conferences focusing on energy in Africa, demonstrates the continued appetite for developing and investing in projects on the continent.
The road has not been easy, but thanks to the continued motivation and commitment of its attendees, over the course of the Forum’s lifetime the sector has witnessed the emergence of initiatives such as South Africa's Renewable Energy Independent Power Project Procurement Programme, GET FiT Uganda and the IFC’s Scaling Solar programme, with many IPPs coming online and a growing emergency power sector.
“Over the years, AEF has emerged as an important conference remarkably well attuned to the needs of its stakeholders. It provides an excellent platform for networking and discussions with the key stakeholders from different countries in the continent.” Lucy Chege, Head: Energy, Environment and Information Communications Technologies (ICT) at the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) but AEF has become more than simply an opportunity to meet up with clients. Many sponsors and attendees use the Forum as a vehicle to announce products, major investments, project deals and mergers.
At the Copenhagen Forum in June 2017, InfraCo Africa and Standard Microgrid signed a Convertible Loan Agreement for the phased disbursement of up to US$3.5m, with the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) also awarding Standard Microgrid a US$0.75m grant to support project preparation services. These commitments fund the deployment of distributed solar power across Zambia. The World Bank used AEF to launch a report about Public-Private Partnerships in power transmission. Shortly after the Forum, Redox Power Solutions Ltd (‘Redox’), the developers and investors in Albatros Energy Mali SA, announced the financial close and imminent start of the construction of the first IPP in Mali.
We gathered some of the decision-makers who attend AEF to comment on the impact of the Forum within the sector. The following extracts are taken from the Africa Energy Yearbook 2018, the official publication of the Forum.
David Keith, Senior Vice President, Tetra Tech:
“My first Africa Energy Forum was 2000 in Edinburgh. Our firm had just partnered with the Government of Uganda for a major electricity reform effort, and I was eager to attend AEF to learn from others, and hence benefit our client. With system expansion as Uganda’s goal, our work helped to establish the Electricity Regulatory Authority, and opened the door for private sector participation in Uganda’s distribution sector. In 2002, at AEF in Lyon, we held a formal bidder’s conference for what would ultimately become Umeme.
All these years and AEF conferences later, Uganda’s experience is still a good model. It created an independent regulator, established cost-reflective tariffs, settled the non-payment problem of public sector electricity customers, brokered a win-win deal with trade unions, and paved the way for financial sector sustainability…as every AEF conference has advocated, credit-worthy off-takers are the key to attracting investors in generation… regardless of the market climate for investment in Africa’s power sector, AEF has remained a constant – as a catalyst enabling deals to get done, and as the one event any serious player can’t afford to miss.”
“The AEF provides a great platform for industry stakeholders and Governments to meet on an annual basis. The AEF is one of the best organized conferences with an Africa focus and the organizers impress with their ability to innovate and introduce new features that go beyond a “normal conference”. We are proud sponsors of the AEF.” Alexander Sarac, Partner and Head of Africa Energy and Infrastructure at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP
Martin Haupts, Chief Executive Officer, Phanes Group:
“Solar energy’s contribution to global grids in the last decade has been palpable. Renewable energy accounted for a quarter of the total energy production worldwide in the last 12 months, with solar outgrowing oil, coal and gas combined, as stated in the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 report. This trend is set to continue, too, with net fossil fuel generating capacity declining in 2017, and solar soaring consistently for the last 24 months. Powering Africa will be a joint effort – with government authorities working more closely with the private sector to increase capacity across the board. These conversations must be frank and frequent. Events like AEF play a major role in facilitating these, which is why they remain an important platform to our industry.”
“Standard Bank’s established association with the AEF has provided an enormously effective platform to share the bank’s experience and insight into the exciting evolution of Africa’s energy landscape. The AEF has also provided a brilliant window into the global technology and financing landscapes that frame, inform and support Africa’s own energy evolution.” Rentia van Tonder, Head, Power for Standard Bank Group
Perhaps the last word should go to Founder of the Africa Energy Forum, Rod Cargill:
AEF started modestly…the compact size and possibly the awful Amsterdam weather helped establish the ethos of the forum, which was to serve the African and international power sectors in their effort to promote the essential rollout of power across the continent.
I don’t think it is going too far to say that a bound was formed between delegates to pursue this objective, which led many delegates to return each year. Perhaps the importance of the task reflects the year-on-year growth of the forum. The growth of AEF is also due, in no small part, to the continued loyalty of the participants and the dedicated commitment of the present management to the industry.
Thanks go to these Africa Energy Yearbook contributors, EnergyNet and African Business. For more information about this year’s Africa Energy Forum, visit www.africa-energy-forum.com