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Africa told to prioritise energy needs

VIENNA, Austria, Sep 16 – The technical capacity of African governments in the energy sector needs to be enhanced to ensure that the continent is able to effectively deal with energy access and security concerns.

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said this calls for the development of practical solutions for Africa\’s energy challenges to enable the continent to meet its energy needs.

"I call upon the Africa-Europe Energy Partnership (AEEP) to assist Kenya and African governments in general in technical capacity, to develop our energy resources," Mr Murungi said in his address to delegates attending a two-day first high level meeting of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership in Vienna, Austria.

The Minister also urged the AEEP, which was launched in 2007 in Lisbon, Portugal as a long-term framework for structured political dialogue and co-operation between Africa and the EU on energy issues, to assist in setting up a fund which would provide guarantees to encourage private sector investments in the sector.

He pointed out that due to the high risks involved, many investors shy away from investing in the sector thus the need to come up with initiatives to protect them from being penalised when their investments do not yield fruits.

Pointing to Kenya\’s efforts to reduce the risks involved, through for example the formation of the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) which does the exploration works, Mr Murungi marketed the renewable energy sector which he said is particularly attractive to the private firms.

To improve the business climate for energy investments, he added that the Kenyan government had put up wind masts and data loggers to assess wind direction for those interested in investing in wind energy technology.

"At the same time, there is a Wind Atlas in place to help investors identify areas of investment," he highlighted the incentives available to investors adding that the government had also started a solar lamp project which needed investors\’ support.

Mr Murungi outlined the enormous geo-thermal potential in the country, which is estimated at 7,000 Megawatt (MW) and that of the East African region which he said, can produce close to 10,000 MW. This capacity however remains untapped he regretted.

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Despite these shortfalls, energy is still an enabler of economic growth and development; and a prerequisite for countries aiming to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. 

He therefore challenged world governments to view energy projects as infrastructure projects and give them the priority they deserve in terms of budgetary allocations if global energy needs were to be met.

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