The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the African Union Commission recently co-hosted the first ever ministerial seminar titled The Future of Africa’s Energy.
The forum held at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa brought together high-level stakeholders from government and industry to discuss the development of Africa’s energy sector.
The overarching message of the seminar was recognising the importance of Africa in the global energy arena, and how to ensure that the continent’s energy sector thrives.
Attendees acknowledged the significance of entrepreneurship and inclusivity within the energy sector.
“Entrepreneurship plays a key role as we need more and more African businesses that understand the challenges and can create tailor made solutions,” said Kuda Mzembe, co-founder of Zimbabwean-based Advanced Power Technologies.
Mzembe further highlighted that energy entrepreneurship will also lead to job creation and will put African economies on the right trajectory.
“African success stories must be told and used as models,” he added.
IEA’s executive director, Dr Fatih Birol, said: “I’m honoured to have been able to participate in such rich and fruitful discussions with major energy stakeholders from across the continent.”
He continued: “Investment, innovation and access to education and training will be vital for Africa’s energy future.”
In terms of inclusivity, Mzembe said, “we need to get over the biased belief that women are incapable.
“We need more female engineers and they must be allowed to thrive. We have already seen the emergence of women in the energy space and this can only get better.
“We also need to include those with disabilities and not automatically disqualify them. This has to be very intentional,” Mzembe added.
Another key aspect that delegates touched on was the need for African nations to translate energy access to bankable projects.
Although bankable projects still remain a big challenge, Mzembe noted that “one thing for certain is that the donor model is unsustainable as a means to increase energy access”.
He urged for a shift in perception as well as the narrative that Africa is a high risk investment destination, which he emphasised that this notion is not entirely accurate.
“More projects are being defaulted in Europe than in Africa but we are still viewed as high risk,” Mzembe pointed out.
He cautioned against need of looking for silver bullet innovations.
In conclusion he said: “Let us scale what is already there and work with what we have. As a continent we must take it upon ourselves to instill that confidence. I believe it will happen one project at a time and we must commit to the process.”