In New York, African leaders have called for concerted investment in energy and water infrastructure to accelerate the achievement of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
“We must rethink development and lead a transition that is climate resilient, truly just, people-centered, inclusive, and equitable to deliver on the promises of the Agendas,” the Economic Commission for Africa, Acting Executive Secretary, Antonio Pedro, said at an Africa Day event on the sidelines of the High-Level Political Dialogue in New York.
Held under the theme, “Harnessing water and energy for Africa’s sustainable industrialization and inclusive economic transformation,” the event was co-organised by the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa UN-OSAA, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (UN-IDEP).
Mr. Pedro noted that African countries have been disproportionately affected by multiple crises which have reversed development gains, but Africa had the solutions to sustainable development.
“There is no shortage of opportunities or African-driven blueprints and innovative solutions to enable us to achieve the SDGs and to propel us to The Africa We Want. Strengthening our implementation capabilities is a sine qua non condition for success,” said Mr. Pedro.
Underlying the importance of harnessing water and energy for Africa’s sustainable industrialization and inclusive economic transformation, Mr. Pedro said water was an important enabler for the achievement of the SDGs and the Agenda 2063. For example, through the Great Blue Wall Initiative, ECA in collaboration with other partners, is seeking to accelerate the blue economy in the Western Indian Ocean region.
On energy, Mr. Pedro said there can be no net-zero by 2050 without universal access to energy by 2030 as it was essential to harness Africa’s abundant renewable and clean energy resources. Africa currently attracts less than 1.5% of global renewable energy investments which could be increased through improved regulatory and policy actions.
By taking the lead in the green hydrogen space for instance, Africa could produce over $1 trillion worth of green hydrogen a year by 2035.
The ECA, working with the Secretariat of the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions and other regional institutions, is supporting the Africa Green Hydrogen Alliance members with green hydrogen potential. If realized, this could generate an additional $122 billion to the GDP of member countries while creating about 4 million jobs by 2050, Mr. Pedro said.
“Not only are renewable energy opportunities immense, but they are also lucrative,” said Mr. Pedro.
The global renewable energy market was expected to reach a value of close to $2 trillion by 2030 and just 10 percent of this amount, could add $200 billion to Africa’s economy.
Echoing the need to tap renewable energy resources for sustainable development, the Niger Minister for the Environment and Combating Desertification and Chair of the ARFSD-9 Bureau, Garama Saratou Rabiou Inoussa, said Africa needs financial support. It also needs to scale up innovative and transformative initiatives such as the Great Green Wall and the Great Blue Wall to achieve the goals of 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063, she said.
Speaking at the same event, Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa, United Nations Development Programme, Ahunna Eziakonwa, called for the scaling up of energy development models that work because energy poverty was a serious challenge needing urgent action.
Acknowledging the need to alleviate energy poverty in the continent, President of UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Lachezara Stoeva, challenged African countries to embrace green and clean industrialization strategies that promote equitable economic opportunities and help address the climate crisis, said Ms. Stoeva.
“Africa is changing its development narrative by launching ambitious initiatives that could act as game changers for the achievement of the SDGs and Agenda 2063,” Ms. Stoeva emphasized, adding that sustainable industrialization in Africa was crucial to promote inclusive economic transformation, enhance manufacturing and create decent jobs.
For his part, Minister Plenipotentiary in the Mission of Egypt to the United Nations, Mohamed Nasr, said increasing climate impacts and cost of finance, as well as challenges of food and energy security “call for action to enhance resilience and a shift to more climate responsive development models.”
Africa has only 3.3 percent of global energy consumption and a great potential for renewable energy, but it has attracted only 0.5 percent of global investment in renewable energy. 600 million Africans still have no access to electricity, Mr. Nasr said.