13 March 2006
At the conclusion of the four-day African Ministerial Conference on Hydropower and Sustainable Development in Johannesburg on Thursday, African leaders committed to developing a continent-wide energy vision for 2025 to be monitored by ministers of finance, energy, water and the environment under the auspices of the African Union (AU).
Delegates agreed that exploiting the potential of hydropower as renewable energy could help meet the power needs of the continent.
The vision includes analysing case studies of hydropower projects in Africa, which will serve as mentoring examples.
The ministers also agreed that hydropower development should be underpinned by sound environmental and social impact assessments, mitigation and management of plans, in accordance with national regulatory frameworks and international standards of good practice.
South African Minister of Minerals and Energy Lindiwe Hendricks emphasised the importance of capacity building in hydropower development and climate change as critical to meeting the set goals.
While 75% of South Africans have access to electricity, she noted with concern that over 90% of people in Africa had no such access.
“We emphasise that access to electricity is essential for achieving the objectives of Nepad, the Millennium Development Goals and sustainable development,” she said.
Developing Africa’s potential
Hendricks said the conference also noted that less than 70% of hydropower potential in Africa had been developed.
“We acknowledged the existence of good practices and past mistakes in hydropower development as important educational tools for recognising what is required for successful hydropower projects,” she said.
As part of the action plan, South Africa and Egypt will help other African countries develop their designated national authorities for clean development mechanisms and provide technical assistance in project development.
AU member states are also expected to streamline their legal and regulatory frameworks and to improve skills to further hydropower development. Ministers will also look at the benefits of using hydropower in conjunction with other renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal power.
Recognising the energy deficiency in Africa, ministers will ask the AU and other regional and international institutions to help countries prepare feasibility studies of key Nepad hydropower projects such as Inga Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to serve as a regional source of electricity.
Centres of excellence
The ministers will ask the Nepad Secretariat to speed up the establishment of centres of excellence on water, science, technology and renewable energy.
The conference called on multilateral and bilateral funding agencies to engage African countries on hydropower development, promote national and regional projects and innovative funding mechanisms.
The ministers noted the establishment of the Infrastructure Consortium Secretariat at the African Development Bank for necessary coordination and mobilisation of resources.
The African Ministerial Council on Water, AFREC and the Forum of Energy Ministers of Africa are to implement the action plan of the conference.
Hendricks said the outcomes of the conference would be fed into the Nepad infrastructure planning process of the AU as well as national and ministerial plans of action.