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Nurture homegrown energy tech, Kofi Annan tells Africa

African leaders should support local technologies and research in order to boost the continent’s ability to generate the electricity needed to power its industries and light its homes, a panel of dignitaries has said.

The call comes in the 2015 report by the Africa Progress Panel, led by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, and published on 5 June at the World Economic Forum for Africa in Cape Town, South Africa.

“Africa’s leaders must champion local technological capability to move the continent from importing energy technologies to becoming a leading producer,” the report says.

It calls the African Union’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa 2024 a “key way” to achieve the report’s aims.

The report urges African governments, investors, and international financial institutions to significantly scale up investment in energy to unlock the continent’s energy potential.

It calls for a tenfold increase in power generation to provide all Africans with access to electricity by 2030. According to the report, 621 million people lack access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, and the number is rising.

The energy gap between Africa and developed countries is staggering, it says. It would take the average Tanzanian eight years to use as much electricity as an average American in a month.

But increasing the quantity of electricity generated in Africa isn’t the only aim. Africa must invest in energy creation smartly, it adds. By aiming for low-carbon long-term development it will set itself up for a sustainable future.

“We categorically reject the idea that Africa has to choose between growth and low-carbon development,” said Kofi Annan in a statement issued to coincide with the report’s launch.

He added that African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa are emerging as front-runners in the global transition to low-carbon energy.

“Africa is well-positioned to expand the power generation needed to drive growth, deliver energy for all and play a leadership role in the crucial climate change negotiations,” he said.

The Africa Progress Panel, comprising 10 international dignitaries, has released annual progress reports for the continent since 2008. Apart from Annan, it includes former Nigerian president Olesegun Obasanjo, Linah Mohohlo, governor of Botswana’s Central Bank, and pop star Bob Geldof.