Nancy Awino sorts out her briquette charcoal at her firm in Kibuye market Kisumu county. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Seven in ten people living in rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity, an ongoing multi-stakeholder meeting in Kigali, Rwanda disclosed.

According to participants from across Africa attending the Renewable Energy and its Accessibility forum, without electricity, delivery of the region’s development ambitions as captured in Africa Union’s agenda 2063 and realisation of African Continental Free Trade Area goals will not be possible.

“As much as it is unimaginable, it is true that in this 21 Century, electricity remains a luxury to the majority of Africans. Interestingly, our policymakers do not see the urgency to reverse the situation,” said Charles Mwangi, the Head of Programmes and Research at the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).

According to Mwangi, access to affordable and reliable energy for community facilities including schools and health/clinics is central to the delivery of needed services, thus affecting positively the well-being of the underserved populations in rural areas as well as other places.

Benson Ireri, from World Resources Institute, said while Africa’s energy sector is vital to the continent’s economic prospects, it has not been able to achieve the reliable domestic energy supply that its people and businesses require.

Energy demand

“The energy demand in Africa has been increasing at an annual rate of around 3 per cent, the highest among all continents, but energy supply continues to lag significantly,” he said.

Ireri said of Africa’s 54 countries, 35 have undertaken some form of commitment towards net-zero emissions. Despite such public commitments, decisive actions and implementation remain inadequate and the pace of change is slow.

Investment in low-carbon energy systems in Africa lags the global pace; but despite global climate finance commitments from developed economies aimed at $100 billion per annum, the allocation to Africa falls significantly, short of what the continent requires to meet global targets.

Civil society can help raise urgent awareness of the dire situation within communities. Faustin Vuningoma, the Coordinator of the Rwanda Climate Change and Development Network (RCCDN) said civil society organisations should play major roles in bringing about more advocacy and capacity building in regard to access to sustainable and accessible renewable energy.

Dr Olufunso Sumorin from the African Development Bank Group said Africa accounts for only three per cent of cumulative global greenhouse gas emissions yet suffers the biggest brunt of climate change.

Global energy transition

“The continent, however, is being swept along in the global energy transition and increasingly coming under the same net-zero policy pressure as developed economies such as the EU,” Dr Sumorin said.

“In order for Africa to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals relating to energy, its generation capacity will need to be doubled by 2030 and multiplied fivefold by 2050. If unmet, this energy demand-supply gap will be detrimental to Africa’s standard of living and will greatly hinder economic growth,” he added.

 “Governments will never have enough money to do all that needs to be done, but they can use what is available to help better the lives of people on the energy front,” said Sumorin.

Eugene Nforngwa, Energy Lead Expert at PACJA said the energy sector in Africa would experience substantial structural change over the coming decades. Financing this change at the pace required will be one of the most pressing issues that Africa and the world must address.

Pan African Climate Justice Alliance is a consortium of more than 1,000 organisations from 51 African countries that brings together a diverse membership drawn from grassroots, community-based organisations, faith-based organisations, non-governmental organisations, trusts, foundations, indigenous communities, farmers and pastoralist groups with a shared vision to advance a people-centered, right-based, just and inclusive approach to address climate and environmental challenges facing humanity and the planet.