REMARKS OF H.E. RAILA ODINGA; EGH, HIGH REPRESENTATITIVE FOR INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMEMT OF THE AFRICAN UNION, AT POWERING JOBS CONFERENCE;
JULY 18, 2019;
There is no denying that Energy is the sector on which Kenya and Africa can depend in the years ahead to spur economic development, attract investment and create jobs for young people.
That is why I am happy to join you this morning to hear your thoughts, which I believe are based on solid research on the trends and dynamics in this critical sector.
Our overall aim, I believe, is how to ensure affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for our economies in order to spur jobs. I am therefore deeply impressed by the subject of this meeting which is “Powering Jobs.”
Ladies and Gentlemen;
The question of youth and jobs is critical. And so is the question of education, research and training.
Demographers are constantly reminding us that the population of our continent is set to double to about two billion people in the coming decades and that majority of this population will be youth aged 18 and below.
To turn this age group into an opportunity and not a curse for our continent, we will need to create millions of jobs for them every year.
But we also know that good jobs go where there is the right infrastructure mix of energy, transportation and internet connectivity. Business owners don’t go where power is unreliable and unaffordable. Businesses set up shop where there’s high-speed railway and high-speed internet and all these require tremendous amounts of energy.
Africa has made some progress towards ensuring affordable, sustainable and reliable energy. But I also know that our best efforts have not been good enough both here in Kenya and elsewhere across Africa.
Our market for decentralized renewables in Kenya is reputed to be the fastest moving in Africa. Some 30 per cent of Kenyan households use solar lighting and the country is home to a pioneering green mini-grids program, thousands of bio digesters and 3,000MW of micro-hydro systems.
However, there is still ample room to grow—the country requires an increase in power output of 5 per cent per annum just to keep pace with current demand, let alone to meet the Government’s ambitious goal of 100 percent electrification by 2020.
As we lag in these areas, the energy landscape is undergoing significant shifts with regard to production, management and consumption. Globally, the share of renewables in the overall energy mix is increasing.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), global renewable capacity reached 2,179 Gigawatt (GW) in 2017. This represents a 167 GW or 8.3% year on year growth over 2016.
Kenya, and Africa for that matter, must not be left behind in this energy shift.
Yet all indications are that we are falling behind.
As we speak, in Sub -Saharan Africa, 600 million people are still without electricity and only 16,000 people work in the renewable energy sector. Innovation in decentralized energy is going to be essential for the sector to meet expectations. We still lack a clear capacity building roadmap on Energy Investment and financing that will facilitate more investments in in the sector.
We have a challenge to enhance our energy resilience and ensure that we are never dependent on any single source of supply. We are all aware that harnessing renewables is not easy.
But with greater international cooperation, we can achieve it.
Africa should have no problem exploiting and deploying renewable energy.
We have enormous hydro and geothermal energy potential.
As the Continent’s infrastructure ambassador, I have taken up the challenge of convincing the Continent and the international community to have a dedicated focus on the Inga Dam in the DRC, which has long been identified to have the capacity to power the entire Continent if its 110 MW capacity is fully developed.
Inga is not a new story. What is new is why it has failed to take off over the last 50 years.
We have a realization that over 70 percent of Grand Inga’s projected power consumption market is outside of the DRC. Inga therefore cannot be a DRC project as we have approached it for more than five decades. As many potential off-take countries as possible must take interest in Inga. Inga must be a pan-African project.
But we do not need to develop the Inga Hydro potential at the expenses of other sources. We need diverse energy mix. We have massive land to deploy solar panels and exploit wind potential. We have not fully exploited our capacity for solar and wind.
To unlock the potential of renewables to meet our energy objectives, we must continue to invest steadily in Research and Development. We need to better integrate renewables into the grid and manage energy demand and supply intelligently, to ensure a reliable energy supply to consumers.
We must work to attract many more industry partners and researchers to come to Kenya and Africa to partner with our companies and governments and work with our people to develop new ideas on energy.
All of these ideas and innovations can only succeed if we have a pool of manpower equipped with the necessary skillsets and know-how to implement them on the ground.
Therefore, it is important that we clearly articulate the skill sets, and progression opportunities to our existing and potential energy professionals. In particular, we need partnerships that develop the skills framework for Energy and Power and which ensure that our workforce can continuously stay relevant and competitive.
Am aware that few of you know my work in renewables which began in the formation of my foundation, The Green Outreach Foundation Africa, which is a renewable energy and environmental conservation initiative focusing on the development and reform of renewable energy sources in Kenya.
In my capacity as Chairman of this organization I have faced the issue of the skills gap on the continent. In many rural areas in this country and across Africa, the high unemployment is linked to the mismatch between available work and available skills. There is work but no skills.
Closing this gap with skills and jobs training is critical especially with regard to renewable energy sector. We cannot achieve energy for all without a labor force to support it.
We need to build an army of creative, empowered and educated entrepreneurs to power our energy sector. The global community and national governments must develop awareness, interest and support for the distributed renewable energy sector, along with technical and vocational education and training (TVET), to create the workforce to close this critical gap.
We must invest in a new army of energy workforce including engineers and technicians, utility staff, finance and banking professionals, manufacturers and entrepreneurs who will remove barriers hindering “last mile” delivery of electricity and faster adoption of distributed power. This mobilization will also kick start job creation in energy-poor countries.
I therefore welcome you with an appeal that we work together to rebuild an economy powered by education, research, hard work and which creates good jobs for all through reliable and affordable energy for all.
Thank you very much.