During the past two decades, most African countries have faced chronic energy gaps, with poor access to electricity and regular power cuts, with disastrous social and economic impacts[1]. According to USAID Power Africa’s 2014 annual report, “there are 1.2 billion people on earth who live this reality, and half of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. Throughout the region, access rates average approximately 30%. Among the 20 countries with the highest deficits in access to electricity, twelve are in sub-Saharan Africa”.

Further, the African Development Bank’s President stated this week  that “Over 645 million Africans do not have access to electricity – and 700 million go without access to clean cooking energy, with 600,000 dying each year from indoor pollution from reliance on biomass for cooking. A continent that accounts for 16% of the world’s population has 53% of all the total population without electricity in the world[2].”

But despite this dark picture, Africa is blessed with enough solar, hydro power potential, geothermal energy resources, natural gas deposits and wind potential to address these challenges and help build sustainable energy.

So, Africa needs strong and urgent solutions to reduce its energy gap, as access to electricity means access to opportunities and chance for people and economies to flourish[3].

The 2016 2nd Powering Africa summit, bringing together participants from governments along with financial investors and banking sector representatives, could play a great role in realization of future development of these resources. In that regard, African leaders who will be attending the event will have an excellent opportunity to engage with public and private investors including representatives from the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), African Development Bank (AfDB), and the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB).

Unfortunately, persistent power shortages have led African leaders, with support from development institutions and commercial banks, to build coal plants and hydroelectric dams that have incurred huge costs, financial and otherwise.

Considering that such projects often generate significant adverse social and environmental impacts, including by threatening the health and wellbeing of local communities, the undersigned African civil society organizations hereby express their concerns about the choice of technology for “powering Africa” and challenge the participants at the Summit, especially African Ministers, the US government, the World Bank, USAID, IFC, AfDB, and BRICS NDB, to ensure that discussions around this meeting take into account poor and marginalized people’s access to clean energy, and critical issues of climate change and human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples.

So we, as African civil society organizations believe that any initiatives meant to help Africa reducing its energy and infrastructure gaps should be done through innovative solutions, but most importantly should be socially and environmentally sustainable.

Thus, the below members of African civil society:

  • Call upon African governments to improve environmental and social assessment policies to effectively address impacts of projects on local communities. This can be ensured through active, democratic, and authentic community participation. This will help prevent corruption and enhance access to information for affected persons.
  • Call upon governments to adhere to and strengthen legal frameworks consistent with the resolutions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights that “all necessary measures must be taken by the State to ensure participation, including the free, prior and informed consent of communities, in decision making related to natural resources governance.”
  • Call upon the banks, including the BRICS New Development Bank, to develop robust safeguards that can address the needs and ensure protection of local communities which will be affected by projects funded by them.

African Civil Society Organizations urge the Summit organizers and African leaders to:

  • Mobilize more investment for the energy sector that promotes local community ventures. This allows the local community to participate in the investment process. Too often local communities are evicted, relocated or harassed in the process of acquiring land for energy projects. To prevent this, local communities should have the opportunity to negotiate utilizing portions of their land for shared energy production and be able to take part in benefit sharing directly.
  • Promote energy solutions that are accessible and meet the development needs of poor and vulnerable groups and respect all human rights.
  • Promote research on community-scale renewable energy, and mobilize funding for local community projects so that they can initiate community driven renewable energy projects.
  • Ensure involvement and participation of civil society and local communities in decisions around the development of energy projects and include them in the funding process through consultations. Participation of local communities in renewable energy technology projects, such as small/micro energy projects like geothermal, solar power and wind, can increase energy security and mitigate against project impacts on the local community.
  • And finally exclude from the Power Africa Initiative energy designs and funding options based on dirty fossil fuels like coal.

Signed organizations below:

  1. Lumiere Synergie pour le Developpement (LSD), Senegal;
  2. Jamaa Resource Initiatives, Kenya;
  3. Citizens for Justice (CFJ), Malawi;
  4. African Resource Watch (Afrewatch), Democratic Republic of Congo;
  5. Foundation for the Conservation of the Earth (FOCONE), Nigeria;
  6. Jeunes Volontaires pour l’environnement, Togo;
  7. Foundation For Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD), Nigeria;
  8. Worldview, Gambia;
  9. Mazingira Network (MANET), Tanzania;
  10. Studies Monitoring and Support for Social and Environmental Responsibility (OEARSE), Democratic Republic of Congo;
  11. JUSTICIA, Democratic Republic of Congo;
  12. The Congolese Civil Society Watch for the Minerals of Peace in OSCMP/RDC, Democratic Republic of Congo;
  13. Green Development Advocates (GDA), Cameroon;
  14. Human Rights Council, Ethiopia;
  15. Narasha Community Development Group, Kenya;
  16. ONG Mer Bleue, Mauritanie;
  17. Global Rights, Nigeria;
  18. GARED Action Group and Reflection on the Environment and Sustainable Development, Togo
  19. L’Association Guinénne pour la Transparence (AGT), Guinea
  20. Research and Cooperation for Supporting Endogenous Development (ARCADE), Senegal
  21. Institut de Recherche et de Promotion des Alternatives de Développement en Afrique (IRPAD), Mali

[1] “Africa is known for the darkness of its towns and cities. Kids go to school and cannot learn well because there is no electricity. Lives are at great risks in hospitals because there is no electricity. Small businesses, which account for over 90% of the private sector, cannot operate optimally. Africa loses about 4% of its GDP to lack of electricity” – Remarks of AfDB’s President at the World Social Forum in Davos on 25 January 2016.

[2] Remarks of AfDB’s President at the World Social Forum in held in Davos on 25 January 2016.

[3] Andrew M. Herscowitz (USAID) in his letter in the USAID annual report 2015.

Download the Statement in English and French.