The initiative highlights examples of how public private partnerships can help alleviate poverty and also bring about sustainable development. Alleviating poverty and sustainable development are not exclusive aims but often complimentary –- particularly in Africa. The Momentum for Change initiative provides some small examples of where the public and private sector can work together to achieve sustainable development and poverty reduction, but in Africa the potential for this is monumental.
Africa has a huge renewable energy potential. Only 7 percent of its hydropower capacity has been exploited and the continent is abundant in solar, wind and geothermal energy. These natural resources in many people’s view are Africa’s greatest source of wealth. They provide Africa with a never-ending clean source of energy that can supply electricity and heating to everyone on the continent — including the poorest who desperately need energy to escape from poverty.
The fact that most of Africa’s future infrastructure is not yet built is now become a huge opportunity for the continent. Africa is not yet locked into the inefficient, oft-polluting infrastructure that many Western countries have. With modern efficient technologies, the continent has the opportunity to build the infrastructure that could bypass the inefficient energy infrastructure systems of the developed world.
Africa has done this before. The huge expansion of mobile phones is just one example of how Africa can leapfrog traditional stages of development. Current monetary transfer systems in Kenya using mobile phones (as created by M-PESA) is a world leading technology which is not yet seen in areas of Europe or the US. Africa has leapfrogged developed countries in implementing this new technology and Africa can do this again with its energy infrastructure.
In the sidelines of the UNFCCC negotiations at COP17, there are a large number of side events that have looked at how Africa can realize its energy potential. During these discussions, it is clear a number of groups will be essential in this process. African government will have to create the correct policy environment for investors, private companies will need to be educated on Africa’s sustainable energy potential and donors may have to provide some initial capital to get some projects of the ground. But the key point coming from all these meetings is that the experts think this can be done, and it can be done in a way that stimulates sustainable poverty reduction on the continent.
The Minister of Energy for Mali and the head of the African Coalition of Energy Ministers, Mr. Habib Ouane, said that this wasn’t a choice between poverty reduction and providing renewable energy. Due to the huge renewable energy potential on the continent, it is often the most appropriate and cost-effective technology to develop (particularly in rural areas) which has the added benefit of increasing many regions energy security. Developing this abundant and clean potential makes sense. Governments must now get the policies and plans in place to seize this opportunity and donors and private companies must support them in this as best they can through financial and technical support.
Africa is an opportunity particularly in the area of renewable energy and it is time to realize it, but we believe it should be developed in line with environmental and social safeguards.