(a) Energy is crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa
(1) Energy access and social & economic development are primary drivers ("Agenda 2030", UN 2015 and “AGENDA 2063 - The Africa We Want”, AU 2015)
Energy is crucial (actually it is necessary but not sufficient) for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals /SDGs/ adopted by the United Nations in 2015 ("Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development"). Energy is a prerequisite for achieving many of the 17 SDGs. The focus here is on clean energy: SDG 7 ("Ensure access for all to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy").
In addition, energy has a multiplier effect on two SDGs of particular interest to Africa:
Sustainable Cities - SDG 11 ("Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable") - As African cities grow, the challenge will be to ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services. Transport, in particular, is an essential component of overall sustainable development.
Climate Action - SDG 13 ("Urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts")
Food production threatens to be the main victim of climate change (FAO) - How to simultaneously address the challenges of climate change and development on the African continent? (see « Africa 2019 SDG Index and Dashboards Report » regarding 54 countries’ performance by SDGs SDGA website)
"Africa has an unlimited potential of solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal energy resources. We must unleash Africa's energy potential - both conventional and renewable. Unleashing Africa's enormous energy potential for Africa will be a major priority for the African Development Bank (AfDB)."
"Lighting and Powering Africa" is indeed one of the central themes of many funding organizations in Africa that share the ambitious goal of universal access to energy by 2025.
(2) Energy systems that are secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable for all (while minimising raw materials and energy used in all transformation processes)
In most countries of the world, national energy consumption is divided into four main sectors:
- residential (heating, lighting and household appliances)
- commercial (lighting, heating and cooling of commercial buildings, and provision of water and sewer services)
- industrial users (agriculture, mining, manufacturing and construction)
- transportation (passengers, freight and pipelines).
Most of the energy used in the four sectors mentioned above in the world (and, in particular, in Africa) comes from fossil fuels. A small fraction of primary energy sources - about 20% - is consumed as electricity, but this fraction could grow dramatically in the coming decades due to the massive electrification of society (source: International Energy Agency).
It should be recalled that per capita electricity demand in Africa is about 620 kWh (still ten times lower than the European average). Paradoxically, the majority of sub-Saharan African countries have untapped energy resources. New electrification strategies and power systems are being studied in many African countries, particularly those facing high rural-urban migration and high population growth.
As far as the electricity supply chain is concerned, particular attention should be paid to the discussion of advantages and disadvantages with regard to:
- centralized generation, generally based on monopolistic systems designed for traditional power plants (fossil fuel, hydroelectric or nuclear fission power plants)
- decentralised generation, generally based on micro or mini-grids mainly designed for renewable energy resources - a mix of the two types of production could be the best solution
keeping in mind, however, that mini-grids nowadays can be connected to a main grid, using appropriate technology (e.g. smart metering).
(b) Energy value chain (including conversion and end-use technologies)
(3) Power and storage technologies, aiming at providing energy services for all (while optimising efficiency, from households to industry, from kWh to TWh)
When studying the ideal energy mix, the political and industrial challenge is multiple: security of supply (24/7/365) of energy carriers that are physically and economically accessible to all, and whose environmental impact is limited (in line with the objectives of a low-carbon society).
To meet these requirements, countries generally develop "integrated energy planning" strategies, taking into account all key elements of the energy value chain, namely:
1 - the three primary energy sources (renewable energies, fossil fuels, nuclear fission - these are the three forms of energy available in nature)
2 - conversion technologies (to make energy usable and easily transportable)
3 - secondary energy carriers (such as electricity, refined petroleum products, heat,... and hydrogen in the distant future)
4 - end-use technologies and infrastructures (in particular electricity transmission and distribution networks)
5 - energy services (kitchen, domestic comfort, lighting, transport, mobility, communication, etc.).
Moreover, it is quite clear that energy, peace and stability go together : when assessing shortterm energy security, special care should be taken of regulatory quality and political stability (absence of violence).
In this context, it is worth recalling the AU key document "Agenda 2063 - A Common Strategic Framework for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development". This document was prepared through a broad consultation of experts and was adopted in 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by the 24th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU, after 18 months of extensive consultations with all actors in African society. Consultations were held with the following stakeholder groups: private sector; academics and think-tanks; civil society; planning experts; sectoral ministries; etc.
In the first 10-year implementation plan 2014-2023 of the "Agenda 2063", there are ambitious political and industrial commitments related to energy, aimed at "improving living standards" and "contributing to industrial / manufacturing growth and the comfort of African citizens". It is also proposed that cities recycle at least 50% of the waste they produce.
Three objectives of "Agenda 2063" (referring to 2013) are of particular interest in the energyclimate field:
- increase the share of renewable energies in total energy production;
- reduce the share of fossil fuels in total energy production;
- electricity supply and connectivity will increase by 50%.
Agenda 2063 (The AFRICAN UN COMMISSION)
(4) Power system development and economics (sustainability in the electricity grid and heating/cooling sectors)
Paradoxically, many countries are rich in natural resources, but their populations remain poor. The analysis indicates that Africa is indeed rich in energy resources but poor in access to energy:
- 66% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa has no access to electricity, with a wide disparity between urban and rural areas.
- 66% of energy investments in sub-Saharan Africa are for export rather than domestic use.
Population dynamics in Africa will affect many development sectors. The African population will migrate and become highly urbanized, feeding the current megacities and their slums. .
One of the main challenges is the sustainable supply of energy, water and food products ("nexus" approach) in large cities, which are the main centres of consumption and growth. Among the most populated urban areas in Africa are Lagos in Nigeria (>22 million inhabitants), Cairo in Egypt (>20 million inhabitants), Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (>17 million inhabitants) and Gauteng (Johannesburg and Pretoria,) in South Africa (>12 million inhabitants).
(c) Research, innovation & education in connection with the energy-intensive sectors
(5) Explore the role of scientific resources and capacity building as a response to needs of emerging countries in the sectors of transport, residential, industry and services - how can Africa's natural resources benefit all citizens?
Human capital training is another major challenge. Research, innovation and education clearly have a role to play in development and it is important to understand their global impact on multiple components of society. Education and lifelong learning programmes are particularly necessary to support energy development policies, aimed at providing robust solutions to the many challenges facing emerging economies. For example, sub-Saharan African countries will have to create about 18 million new jobs each year over the next quarter century, equivalent to the current population of Burkina Faso.
Agenda 2063 also contains a number of proposals in the field of higher education, including an African virtual online university with open, distance and online learning resources, and an African education accreditation agency with a common system of university qualifications (similar to the student and teacher exchange programme Erasmus in Europe).
Special attention also should be devoted to the supervision and coordination of research and training institutions, setting their priorities and developmental needs, monitoring and finalizing their research programmes and valorizing their findings and results.
Finally, since countries cannot solve all problems on their own (especially in the fields of energy, water and food), international scientific cooperation (South-South, West-East and North-South) is necessary. Concerted efforts are needed to foster global exchanges of knowledge and skills, which will contribute to improving external relations and developing diplomacy through science.
To succeed, we must work together. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”