LUSAKA, Zambia, May 25 – Africa’s energy gaps will be bridged through practical solutions and not theories, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
The President cited Kenya’s ambitious electricity initiative dubbed “Last Mile Connectivity” as an example of a practical project that will help the country achieve 70 percent connectivity rate by December 2017.
The project is jointly funded by the Kenya Government and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
President Kenyatta said with only 16 percent of Africans connected to power, a huge potential exists for investment in the energy sector.
“We know there is demand for energy, what we now need are practical solutions to cater for that demand,” President Kenyatta said.
He was speaking on Tuesday in Lusaka, Zambia, during a debate on ‘The path to universal access to energy in Africa by 2025’ which was part of the AfDB annual meetings. Other panellists were Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina.
President Kenyatta said Kenya has focused on increasing energy production as a driver of industrialization that will create employment for the youth.
“Our greatest challenge is to create jobs for the youth. But we are not going to create jobs if we do not industrialize. And we are not going to industrialize if we do not have power,” he said.
Noting that there will be times when a country enjoys energy surplus while its neighbour is faced with deficit, President Kenyatta emphasized the need for inter-connectivity to ‘trade surpluses to those with deficit’.
In its effort to scale up energy generation, President Kenyatta said his administration has implemented reforms that have cleared the path for private sector’s participation.
“We decided that the energy sector will operate on a commercially based manner where we bring private sector initiatives into the industry. And we have seen it working superbly to the point that 30 percent of our power generation is done by the private sector,” he said.
President Kenyatta pointed out that his government’s initiative to connect primary schools and neighbouring communities to electricity has seen an increase from 29 percent three years ago to almost 52 percent connection rate currently.
President Kagame agreed that African countries should implement reforms that will attract private sector investment in energy generation.
“There is pressure from our people and there is commitment among the leaders. We must, therefore, find ways of speeding up our progress to deliver results faster,” President Kagame said.
Dr Adesina announced that the AfDB will invest $12 billion over the next five years in energy to ensure there is access to electricity for all Africans by 2025.
The AfDB President said generation of green energy will receive preferential funding from the Bank.
“We decided to work on light up and power Africa because Africa is the only region of the world where lack of electricity has unfortunately become the norm,” the AfDB President said.
He said over 645 million people lack access to electricity while over 700 million do not have access to clean energy for cooking in the continent.
Dr Adesina disclosed that the bank has launched the Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa to work with partners to address the energy challenge in the continent.