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214 CHAPTER 13 Renewable Energy and Development in Africa ReflectionsontheroleoftheAfricanUnion Shingirirai Mutanga INTRODUCTION Energy security is key to poverty reduction and the economic transformation of Africa. The continent is filled with energy security challenges; in particular access to energy, environmental concerns from the use of fossil fuels, and limited energy supply compounded with the volatile oil prices. Nonetheless, the continent is endowed with enormous renewable energy sources which are not optimally utilised. The nature and range of energy sources that the continent develops and uses will not only determine how well its natural environment is sustained, but also its social and economic development. In particular renewable energy can contribute towards increased agricultural productivity, provision of safe water, achieving of higher levels of industrialisation , and efficient use of information and communications technologies all of which are requirements for integration into the global economy. Therefore energy provides mobility, heat, and light and fuels the machinery that drives the global economy.1,2 Realising this potential is limited by a wide range of barriers which includes among others, technological, policy or legal, financial , economic, and social.3 This paper reflects the role played by the African Union and other initiatives to attain a sustainable energy future. ENERGY INSECURITY IN AFRICA: DRIVERS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY The combined effects of climate change4,5,6 , the continued volatility of fuel prices7 , the recent food crisis, and global economic turbulence have triggered a sense of urgency among policy makers, industries and development practitioners to find suitable and viable options in bio fuels8 and other renewable energy options.9 Several scholars have acknowledged that the transition to renewable energy is inevitable10,11 , as most African countries 215 RENEWABLE ENERGY AND DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA face various forms of energy insecurity. These include reliance on a narrow range of energy sources that are not environmentally sound, lack of efficient energy systems, and lack of access to reliable, affordable and socially acceptable energy services. Energy consumption is uneven between rural and urban areas in many countries. The majority of African countries rely on traditional fuel, mainly fuel-wood,12 which has a chain of interrelated environmental drawbacks, poor effectiveness and incompatible with other user needs.13 Nonetheless one of the key drivers is the continent’s rich renewable energy mix, as shown on figure 1. The energy mix is characterised by three distinct regions with North Africa dominated by oil and gas, Southern Africa Coal and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa depending on biomass and numerous renewable energy sources. Despite these endowed advantages the African continent with a total population of more than 800 million generates same amount of energy as Spain with a population of 45 million.14 The uneven distribution of renewable energy across Africa therefore calls for regional cooperation and integration through energy polling and cross-border interconnection of electricity grids and gas pipeline networks. Therefore the role of the African Union, Regional Economic Groupings (RECs), national governments and other non-state actors becomes crucial in ensuring successful implementation of clean energy technologies such as hydropower, solar, wind, natural gas and biomass. The African Ministerial Meeting on Energy adopted the following recommendations: The importance of an effective institutional mechanism for the energy sector for Africa derives from a real need expressed over the years for strengthening coordination, consolidation and harmonisation of policies, strategies and programmes in the energy sector on the continent. THE ROLE OF THE AU IN RENEWABLE ENERGY The energy sector falls under the Commission’s infrastructure and energy portfolio , a key organ playing a central role in the day-to-day management of the African Union. Among others, the AU Commission’s major responsibility is to provide an overall political and policy leadership for the implementation of a Consolidated Plan of Action on renewable energy. It represents the Union and defends its interests; elaborates draft common positions of the Union; prepares strategic plans and studies for the consideration of the Executive Council; elaborates, promotes, coordinates and harmonises the programmes and policies of the Union with those of the RECs.15 Complementing this is the specialised technical committees meant to address sectoral issues at ministerial 216 CHAPTER 13 level and the relevant one to the subject matter is the Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment. The year 2003 saw the renaissance of the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) under the auspices of AU and NEPAD. As enshrined in the African Union’s science and...


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