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Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) will join the High-Level Group of Personalities on EU-Africa relations, which is backed by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the ONE Campaign and Friends of Europe.

The group brings together 18 eminent figures, including former presidents and prime ministers, leading experts and current and former heads of international organisations. The high-level initiative aims to help modernise the important EU-Africa partnership in order to equip it to meet new challenges. 

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Members of the group include Arancha Gonzalez, minister for foreign affairs of Spain; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of Liberia; Mo Ibrahim, chair and founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Pascal Lamy, former director-general of the World Trade Organization; Etienne Davignon, Belgian statesman and inaugural head of the IEA; and Hailemariam Desalegn, former prime minister of Ethiopia.

Overcoming the immense challenges brought about by the COVID-19 crisis will require much greater international efforts and ground-breaking collective initiatives.

Dr Birol says: “I am honoured to be joining a group of eminent international figures who provide advice and support for the deepening partnership between the European Union and Africa.”

This is a critical time for a complex and important relationship between the European Union and Africa

Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency

“The Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges – but these are common challenges shared across the world, such as the importance of resilient health care systems and preparing recovery plans that will ensure millions of people who have lost their jobs can emerge from this crisis economically empowered.”

The World Bank has forecast that sub-Saharan Africa is likely to experience its first recession in 25 years, with the regional economy contracting between 2.1% and 5.1% as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This will put pressure on achieving sustainable development goals much harder to achieve.

According to the IEA: “One of every two Africans lacks access to electricity, and most health facilities do not have access to electricity. Moreover, Africa has produced just 2% of global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to date, yet the continent is disproportionately on the front line when it comes to the effects of the world’s changing climate.”

In the Africa Energy Outlook 2019 the IEA showcased how “the energy sector can help Africa realise its growth ambitions while also delivering key sustainable development goals by 2030, including full access to electricity and clean cooking facilities.”