Greater Horn of Africa Energy Leaders Push for Universal Access to Electricity as International Energy Agency releases growth potential report

By Dominc Ochola

Energy sector leaders have rallied governments in the Greater Horn of African region to create a conducive investment environment for universal access to electricity to spur economic development.

Their call follows a report published by the International Energy Agency – IEA, a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organization that provides policy recommendations, analysis and data on the entire global energy.

IEA’s report released on October 7th 2022 in Kampala revealed that despite the existing modern mix of clean energy, 140 million people in the Greater Horn of Africa that include; Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda lack access to electricity.

Representatives from the Horn of Africa member states attended the report launch at Munyonyo Resort -presided over by the State Minister for Energy Hon.Okaasai Sidronius Opolot. Others who attended included the Head of Communication at the Energy Ministry , Dr. Patricia Litho.

Hon. Okasaai answering questions from journalists after the report release

According to the report, energy infrastructure in the Greater Horn of Africa has struggled to keep pace with a fast-growing population, creating a formidable hurdle for the region’s flexible economies that can be overcome through stronger deployment of energy efficiency and renewable technologies.

Dubbed ‘Clean Energy Transitions’, the report reveals that the countries in the region have huge underexploited potential for wind and solar power, and have already demonstrated they can find innovative solutions to extend electricity access to underserved populations.

While delivering her keynote remarks during a regional energy dialogue at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala on Friday, Mary Burce Warlick, the IEA Deputy Executive Director described the Greater Horn of Africa- a home to the world’s fastest growing economies, but its potential is at risk if energy infrastructure cannot keep pace.

The State Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Sidranious Opolot Okaasai noted that Uganda has massive, underutilized potential for solar, wind and geothermal power and is one of the front-runners for mini-grid expansion projects to ensure universal access to electricity.

Mr. Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, the Uganda Country Manager of the African Development Bank noted that that achieving these objectives requires supportive policies, better regulatory frameworks, regional cooperation and international financial assistance.

Bioenergy – often in the form of gathered firewood, charcoal and agricultural waste – currently meets around 80% of the greater Horn of Africa’s energy demand. As of 2020, the Greater Horn of Africa with a combined population of 188.928, only one in six people cooks with modern fuels.

The report revealed that the eight countries of the Greater Horn of Africa represent nearly a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa’s Gross Domestic Product – GDP, yet their total energy consumption is less than that of Belgium and the Netherlands combined – but with 10 times the population.

The United Nations – UN General Assembly in 2015 prioritized access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all as Goal 7 enshrined in the 17 Sustainable Development Goal – SDGs. According to the UN, 789 million people – predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa – are living without access to electricity, and hundreds of millions more only have access to unreliable electricity.

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