Africa’s recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will take a long time, as each country has experienced different levels of disruption, and therefore, requires different pathways.
This was indicated during a World Energy Council session as part of the virtual Africa Energy Indaba on March 2.
Chairperson Professor Abubakar Sani Sambo said sub-Saharan Africa had been hard hit, with many economies having been already weak before the pandemic hit. Focus on the recovery must be on strengthening the economy, reducing poverty and ensuring that countries are geared for future pandemics or hardships, he emphasised.
He noted that countries on the continent were now focusing on commitments to agriculture, leveraging their resources such as mineral processing, and strengthening their tourism sectors. In doing so, he emphasised that reliable electricity was pivotal.
In this regard, he called for greater investment in renewables, as well as more regional collaboration.
UN Environment Programme Office head Cecilia Kinuthia-Njenga said a post-Covid-19 recovery discussion must include green energy. She said this was vital in expanding electricity to Africa’s rural settlements, but also in terms of reducing overreliance on unsustainable energy sources such as coal.
She noted that sustainable energy presented a huge opportunity for post-pandemic recovery, as this would transform lives and communities.
Therefore, the organisation is working with stakeholders in South Africa to help them improve energy efficiency, as well as to increase the use of renewables in their various provinces, cities and at a national level.
She said the organisation believed green activities could create a better economic activity, create jobs, and significantly reduce carbon emission.
She noted that South Africa would require just energy transition polices, owing to its reliance on fossil fuels, to support jobs and the livelihoods of those currently working in the coal mining industry.
Moreover, the country also needed more incentives in terms of renewables, she suggested.
EDF energy VP Luc Koechlin said the pandemic and its impacts showed that Africa could no longer afford a lack of energy, as, for example, South Africa lost considerable gross domestic product growth as a result of load-shedding. “No economic recovery is possible without electricity,” he emphasised.
He noted that a positive was that the pandemic had not impacted private equity availability for electricity projects, with investment in Africa not expected to be curtailed in this regard.
He added, however, that private sector investment needed to be unlocked.
Moreover, at the other end of the spectrum, he indicated that nothing is possible without strong involvement from government.
Koechlin also noted that there was a strong need for energy efficiency in South Africa.