Investing in off-grid solutions using renewable energies would save US$35,000 per kilometer for transmission lines, COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya told delegates attending the 10th Anniversary of the Africa – European Union Energy Partnership in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, last week.

He said that financing and business models for off-grid electrification, through green energy technologies such as solar, wind, geothermal, should include the community owned mini-grid management. He proposed for further exploration of the utility-based model, private sector-led mini-grids, and also hybrid models which would try to combine different approaches.

“Energy linkages to other sectors, in particular, renewable energy such as solar, wind, geothermal small hydro power, etc., could be used to support public uses such as lighting and vocational teaching in schools, sterilization, refrigeration and other usages in health clinics, public water systems, and street lighting,” Mr. Ngwenya said.

“The low population density in Africa would require massive investment to increase the access to energy,” the Secretary General stated. “The productive uses of electricity in agro-industries could be significant and these benefits could be related to the expansions in output and the existence of a market for the output, as well as employment expansion.”

Mr. Ngwenya stressed the need to ensure that Africa takes the advantage of the different financing windows available such as the one trillion dollars from climate change to leapfrog to increase access to electricity.

On Africa-EU Energy Partnership Perspectives, the Secretary General indicated that over the 10 years of Africa-EU Energy Partnership, substantial progress between Africa and Europe has been realized. This range from political declarations and agreements to technical assistance and actual projects in the African countries.

The AEEP’s objective is to improve access to secure, affordable and sustainable energy for both continents, with a special focus on increasing investment in energy infrastructure in Africa. The AEEP Steering Group is comprised of the European Commission, the African Union Commission, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Egypt, Germany and Italy.

The Secretary General assured of COMESA’s willingness to continue supporting the Africa EU Energy Partnership in the development of legal and institutional frameworks for public private sector partnerships.  This he noted, would increase the private sector participation in infrastructure development and especially in the energy sector.

The African perspective on the way forward in this partnership was to pursue the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 7 to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Other speakers included Mr. Stefano Manservisi, Director General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), European commission; Ambassador Sergio Mercuri, Minister Plenipotentiary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italy and Mr. Cheikh Bedda, Director of Infrastructure and Energy, African Union Commission.

The AEEP event at the EU-Africa Business Forum was attended by representatives of the private sector who are engaged in the Partnership’s work, as well as other stakeholder’s central to the achievement of the AEEP 2020 Targets. The key messages and conclusions of the AEEP event, together with those of other sessions at the EU-Africa Business Forum, will feed into the AU-EU Summit.