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According to the Economic Commission for Africa’s Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, Africa will not be able to accelerate and sustain growth without adequate access to energy. “Under-developed energy infrastructure and growing demand could help attract more private sector investment and accelerate energy development,” she says.

Access to energy essential for African growth“However, for this we need to improve the governance processes for contracts awards, and licensing to ensure populations get affordable prices, improve the governance of energy utilities most of which are underperforming and most of all, improve the governance of our regional power pool institutions.”

Over 600 million people currently do not have access to energy in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent report, has only 300 000 km of power lines compared to over 10 million in the European Union.

Songwe says the continent could focus on its hydropower resources to change this situation. With Africa’s major hydro resources, the continent could produce over 283 gigawatts of energy and ensure the continent’s whole population has access to energy.

Songwe adds that an appropriate macroeconomic policy framework was critical for the continent to foster structural transformation. “Of equal importance is the need to prioritise financing for development. While it is comforting to note that Africa’s domestic resource mobilisation efforts have improved over the last decade, the continent needs to do more.”

Estimates of Africa’s financing needs are enormous: Around $93 billion per year to finance the infrastructure gap; about $60 billion or more to finance the continent’s Social Development Goals (SDGs); $50 billion annually to meet the cost of climate adaptation; and $25 billion annually to achieve universal access to energy.

“We also know that Africa’s funding needs outstrip its current domestic resource capabilities – due to low domestic savings, shallow capital markets, weak financial intermediation, large informal sector, illicit transfer of funds and public financial management and governance challenges,” Songwe says, adding that development finance strategies need to go beyond filling financing gaps to achieve SDGs.

“While official development assistance will remain a vital source of external public finance for the poorest and most vulnerable countries, it will not be sufficient. Effective domestic resource mobilisation will be at the core of financing sustainable development.”

According to her, illicit financial flows on African economies continue to reduce the continent’s ability to make the investments needed in education, health, science, technology and infrastructure to achieve its goal of industrialisation. Africa loses $100 billion annually to illicit financial flows, representing around 4% of the continent’s GDP. “As such, strengthening the institutional architecture designed to tackle these flows must be a priority for the continent,” Songwe says.

Image credit: https://www.uneca.org/media-centre/vera-songwe-appointed-executive-secretary-economic-commission-africa

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