Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Board Chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Dr. Margery Okadigbo have called for joint efforts by African leaders and their allies to boost investments in the continent’s power sector.
They said such investments in the power sector were necessary to tackle energy poverty and achieve industrialisation and social, economic development in Nigeria and other African countries.
The three leaders made the call at the weekend, while speaking at the FIN International Trade and Investment Forum on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
Obasanjo, who was quoted to have spoken virtually, stated that without adequate electric power, all efforts to develop Africa economically and socially would not materialise.
He said it was imperative that Africans, their friends and development partners work together to raise sufficient investment to get enough power to catalyse the continent’s development, noting that he personally believed that the resources were available.
Obasanjo said there was the need for African countries to create a conducive environment for investment to come into Africa for robust power generation, distribution and transmission.
Obasanjo said, “Today, we have to think of grid system, off grid system and indeed individual domestic system to take care of what is required, particularly in the rural areas.
“I will challenge this forum to really work out what should be the factors that our leaders should consider. What should be the factors that Africans in the private sector will consider; and what will be the factors that the foreign investors will need and consider to be able to power Africa in terms of our development economically and socially.”
Contributing at the event, Okonjo-Iweala said Africa could not industrialise or have a solid continental manufacturing base without energy.
The WTO boss added the green statistics of energy access on the continent was instructive, saying the International Energy Agency (IEA) had estimated a $28 billion annual investment gap in energy for the continent, up to 2030.
Okonjo-Iweala said African countries could not increase the continent’s share of world trade without adding more value to its products through the manufacturing base.
She warned that the future well-being of Africa was limited by improved energy access, adding, “At the same time, the world is being buffeted by numerous manmade and natural exogenous shocks that are difficult for policy makers to manage.”
Okonjo-Iweala further said, “These shocks hit a continent struggling to manage simultaneous health, debt and energy crisis with limited fiscal space.
“But we must not lose sight of the opportunities of this crisis. Africa is abundantly endowed with energy resources from gas to renewables, all waiting for investment.
“High global energy prices make new gas investments more evident, especially as a transition mechanism of will.
“Even as we strive towards renewables, let us focus on mutually beneficial energy investments for Africa and the world by taking up the opportunities to harness the continent’s gas and renewable energy resources.”
Delivering her keynote address at the event, Okadigbo stated that sustainable, renewable energy was fundamental to Africa’s future.
According to her, the UN had disclosed that by 2050, the continent would be the home for two billion people, and two in five of the world’s children will be born there.
Owing to this, Okadigbo said “Meeting their needs with sustainable sources of modern energy – for consumption and production – will be essential to social welfare and economic development.
“With a large population of over 200million, a growing middle class and a favourable investment climate, Nigeria’s Power Market offers numerous investment opportunities for Investors interested in power investments through Independent Power Projects (IPPs) such as the Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Agura and Obite IPPs.”
Other African leaders and experts at the event also suggested the way forward in addressing the challenges of power in the continent.
The Chairman of Hinduja Europe, Mr. Prakash Hinduja, said, “I would like to say, for the next 100 years, the world is going to keenly watch Asia and Africa.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for investors and corporations in the United States to engage with Africa power is just the starting point.
“We need to sow the seeds now, so that tomorrow the future generations can harvest the benefit. We owe it to the next generation. More people to Africa.”