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Universal access to power, is key to economic growth and development

The need for universal access to electricity in Africa must be addressed, was a conclusion derived by a ministerial panel during a live televised debate in Davos Switzerland, last week. Panelist Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, remarked: “Electricity is like the blood in your body. If you have blood, you live. If don’t have blood, you don’t live.”

He added: “Roughly 645 million people [in Africa] do not have access to electricity. An additional 700 million people do not have access to clean cooking fuel. These are numbers we know. And we think that this is not acceptable.”

Adesina was accompanied on stage by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia; Hans Vestberg, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ericsson Group; and Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of Nigeria, the AfDB noted in a statement.

“One hundred and thirty-seven years after Thomas Edison developed the lightbulb, the simple lightbulb, Africa is in the dark. It doesn’t make sense. With electricity, you can have industrialization, you can create jobs, create SMEs. Then Africa will not be known for the darkness of its cities. Everywhere will be bright,” Adesina said.

Universal access: presenting new plans

One day prior to the televised debate, Adesina presented the African Development Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa, which aims to provide universal access to energy by 2025.

Also present at the January 20 launch of the New Deal and the Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa were global political and business leaders, including Kagame, Desalegn, Kofi Annan, Nigerian businessman Tony Elumelu, and singer-songwriter and philanthropist Bono, The Bank said.

Kagame said there was political will behind the New Deal, and stressed the importance of the private sector, and their involvement in lighting up and powering Africa.

Kagame said: “Leaders in government and leaders in business are speaking the same language with a sense of urgency, that something must be done.

“Energy can lead us to many other things, whether it is in manufacturing, or growing of industries in different sectors. Energy is essential. In Africa, we have huge potential in various sources of energy. All the ingredients are there. We need to move very fast.”

Factors hindering development

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Desalegn, said the lack of universal access to energy was holding back Africa’s development potential. “Africa has huge opportunity and it is becoming a global pole for growth.

“Energy is the main challenge in Africa. The main challenge is to have a quality, reliable energy source that makes industrialization possible. In my country, we have witnessed double-digit growth for the past 12 years.”

He added: “The need for energy is growing by 25-30%, which is beyond the growth rate in the country. It means that we need to move very fast in energy development if we want to move even faster in development.

“I appreciate what the African Development Bank has launched, the vision of the President. Africa has huge green renewable resources. We have to harness this potential at this time. We need the private sector to come in and engage in developing this potential.”