The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Sahara Group have unveiled the Africa Renewable Energy Forum to boost access to sustainable energy for 10 million households in Africa through alternative energy initiatives and interventions.
According to a statement by the Head, Corporate Communications, Sahara Group, Bethel Obioma, the forum was launched at the margins of the ongoing 74th UN General Assembly in New York, adding that the Africa Renewable Energy Forum is expected to bolster ongoing partnership between UNDP and the Sahara Group that aims to create access to clean and affordable energy in Africa.
The statement said the forum will serve as a platform for policy discussions, multi-stakeholder collaboration and funding towards implementation of tailored renewable energy solutions across the continent.
Ultimately, the platform will galvanise the political momentum needed to record significant progress through strong partnerships, effective regulation and mutual accountability, it stated.
The event, according to the statement, had senior officials from both organisations in attendance including Ahunna Eziakonwa, Regional Director and Assistant Secretary General for UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa; Kola Adesina, Group Managing Director, Sahara Power Group; Pearl Uzokwe, Director, Governance and Sustainability, Sahara Group; Obioma; and Babatomiwa Adesida, Private Sector Engagement Specialist, Sahara Foundation.
Africa has the highest percentage of untapped hydro power potential in the world, with only 11% utilization capacity. Whilst the global electrification rate reached 89% in 2018 and 153 million people gained access to electricity (WB Stats, May 2019), the biggest challenge remains in the most remote areas globally and sub-Saharan Africa in particular, where an estimated 573 million people are not connected to grid power.
With over 600 million Africans not having access to electricity, the statement quoted Eziakonwa as saying that the continent urgently needs to embrace renewable energy sources to sustainably connect the poorest and hardest to reach households.
“Access to energy will enhance the cause of poverty alleviation and also yield huge benefits for education, healthcare, production, and socio-economic development. The UNDP-Sahara partnership is extremely crucial as it will provide a model for engaging a wide range of stakeholders to address the continent’s energy challenge in line with the SDG framework,” Eziakonwa stated.
The statement also quoted Adesina as saying that the initiative has the potential to create over one million jobs in Africa as the continent continues its march towards achieving the 2030 SDG Agenda.
“Renewable energy is still in its infancy as far as Africa is concerned. We need unrelenting awareness initiatives to inspire a mindset shift to renewable energy in Africa with the various governments, private sector and development agencies leading the charge. At Sahara Group, we believe that interventions like the UNDP-Sahara partnership will enhance productivity and shared prosperity in Africa,” he said.