The World Energy Council has designated 2015 as its “Year of Africa” and will kick start its year-long programme at the 2015 Africa Energy Indaba conference, scheduled to take place from February 17 to 18, 2015 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Africa Energy Indaba, adopted by the World Energy Council as its Africa regional event since 2011, receives global recognition as a leading event, attended by energy professionals and decision-makers from across the continent and the globe.
The Council has focused this year on the continent’s pressing energy issues by bringing together international ministers and business leaders to dialogue and find sustainable solutions to eradicate Africa’s energy poverty crisis and build on the opportunities provided by its vast energy resources.
“This is the opportunity for Africans to tell the African story, to challenge and clarify misconceptions about the continent,” says Brian Statham, steering committee chair of the Africa Energy Indaba.
“People who don’t know Africa have often only heard bad news and that is the only story they have and remember about the continent. This is an opportunity for us to showcase the many positive things happening; the opportunity to change people’s ideas about Africa,” adds Statham.
According to the latest results released by a comprehensive study published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in November 2014, less than 620 million sub-Saharan Africans have access to electricity. According to the same IEA study, although energy demand in sub-Saharan Africa grew by 45% between 2000 and 2012, the continent accounts for only 4% of the global energy demand despite being home to 13% of the global population.
Meanwhile, not enough is being done to get Africa to universal energy access in the next few decades. The World Energy Council’s Scenarios study sees that, on current paths, between 266 million and 402 million sub-Saharan Africans could still be without access to electricity by 2050.
In the face of these rampant challenges, opportunities do exist on the continent, with the capabilities of accelerating the process of improving energy access so that energy becomes a driver of the region’s social and economic development. According to the IEA report, the problem is not that the region lacks energy resources. Resources are more than sufficient to meet the needs of the continent’s population, but Africa is largely under-developed.
For example, around a third of global oil and gas discoveries in the past five years have been in sub-Saharan Africa, which is already home to several major energy producers, including Nigeria, South Africa and Angola. Huge discoveries of natural gas have been made off the shores of Mozambique and Tanzania, both of which are expected to become Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exporters over the coming decade. The region is also endowed with huge renewable energy resources.
“Africa must first reduce its political risk through improving its energy trilemma balance in order to attract investment,” says Christoph Frei, Secretary General of the World Energy Council. “It must advance regional integration and unlock huge untapped potential in hydropower, new renewables and natural gas while delivering on the energy access agenda. For South Africa, it must look into how it can utilise its unconventional gas resources in order to move away from dependence on coal and diversify the energy mix. The Africa Energy Indaba will therefore provide a well-established and much-needed platform for policymakers and business leaders to share best practices and fast-track progress on these issues,” adds Frei.
Statham agrees, adding, “Africa is in a precarious situation. We need funding but we are not seen as particularly risk-friendly. The issues include political instability, extreme climate conditions, a lack of skills and institutional infrastructure and a regulatory and banking environment that isn’t robust enough to support major investment. There’s a need to focus on these issues to test the perceptions versus the reality. Many times perceptions are out of touch with the actual reality and there’s a lack of understanding about the continent. But there is amazing work happening, so if we can use this opportunity to tell the African story, then we can hopefully make some kind of in-roads into unlocking the investment potential for Africa.”
The World Energy Council will culminate its string of events and research focused around its Year of Africa at its 2015 Executive Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in October 24-30, 2015.