Be owners of technology rather than consumers – Energy expert urges Africa

Executive Director of ACEP, Ben Boakye,,

Executive Director of ACEP, Ben Boakye,,

African countries must move away from being a net consumer of technology, if it wants to benefit from the huge energy potential available to it, says Benjamin Boakye, Executive Director of the African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP).

According to him, until this was done, multinational corporations and the countries who own these technologies would continue to short-change Africa in its dealings with them, especially in negotiating energy deals.

“Africa is energy rich, however, we can only make use of this potential, if we control the technologies that will enable us harness this potential. Throughout history, there has not been any country that has developed by relying on only external technologies only,” he added.

Mr Boakye made the call during a roundtable discussion on energy strategies in Africa organised by Imani Ghana in collaboration with the OCP Policy Centre of Morocco.

The seminar was to bring to the fore the energy potentials of Africa and identify the challenges confronting the sector and find ways of addressing the priorities.

Among the topics discussed were, The Potential of Renewable Energy to meet Africa’s Energy Supply, Financing Energy Access and Infrastructure in Africa; The Opportunities and Challenges, and Exploring the Role of Oil and Gas in facilitating Energy Access and Exploring the Benefits of Greater Regional Integration of the Energy Sector.

Mr Boakye said, “Our governments must begin to engage academia and researchers, so as to develop technologies that suit our own conditions. Energy Infrastructure is expensive and we cannot continue to rely on technologies developed by others, and expect that our energy needs are going to come cheap.”

He said despite the fact that the continent abounds in huge solar potential, “we continue to import the solar panels and inverters which are very expensive, however, with the emergence of companies who are assembling such panels in the country, our governments can task our researchers partner these companies, dismantle and come out with designs that suit our environment.”

Mr Boakye dispelled the notion that funding was a major hindrance to promoting research on the continent, stressing that “There is no issue with funding; the issue is with the commitment of our governments. They are not committed to research and that is our problem.”

Speaking on the topic, “The Potential of Renewable Energy to Meet Africa’s Energy Supply”, Ms Rim Berahab, an Economist with OCP Policy Centre said Africa’s economy was moving at an unprecedented speed, however, one of the challenges confronting it was how to continue to grow, and develop its energy to meet the rising demand.

She explained that the current energy outlook of Africa showed that its energy demand had witnessed a study growth becoming the third fastest region in the world in terms of energy growth, growing at 2.9 per cent.

Ms Berahab explained that regional consumption of energy was heavily dominated by oil, which was 40 per cent, followed by coal and gas, hydro accounted for six per cent, while nuclear and other renewable combined accounted for two per cent.

She noted that power generation within the same period increased by nearly four per cent and non-fossil fuel accounted for 20 per cent of power generated on the continent.

Ms Berahab explained that there was huge potential for renewable energy on the continent, however, “African governments must address challenges including, policy regulatory frameworks, lack of substantial and conducive renewable energy policies, and regulations to create safe grounds for private sector.”

Furthermore, she noted that the lack of the technical know-how and inadequacy of sophisticated energy data collection instruments and the cost of moving renewable energy lead to reluctance to change and unreliability of these sources were a disincentive, which must be addressed.

To address these challenges, she called for the approval of a harmonised energy and renewable policy, investment in vocational studies as well as facilitation of partnership between micro-finance institutions, local and international actors.

By: Cliff Ekuful & David Takyi

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