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6 min.

Africa’s electrification: RES4Africa and #EnelFocusOn in Addis Ababa

Two meetings in a week, fostering the debate on Africa’s electrification thanks to the development of renewables. Addis Ababa made its debut as the host city to the annual RES4Africa conference and the sixteenth #EnelFocusOn forum.

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It’s a melting pot of colors, traditions, diversity and ecosystems. The energy of the third millennium is deeply rooted in Africa, due to its favorable climate and hydrogeological conditions: sun, wind, great rivers and volcanoes.

Although data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) points to a contradictory picture, as Africa is still home to over 600 million people without access to electricity.

Africa's electrification is the lynchpin to boost its trajectory of economic growth. Access to electricity for all would ensure food safety, employment opportunities, together with the development of entrepreneurship as well as economic and social progress.


The seventh RES4Africa annual conference in Addis Ababa

In 2019, Res4Africa Foundation hosted its seventh annual conference in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, marking the first ever African venue for such an event. Sponsored by Enel Green Power, BonelliErede and Terna, the event took place on Wednesday June 19 with the attendance of representatives from Ethiopia’s government, the International Agency for Renewable Energy (IRENA) and Africa’s Economic commission (UNECA).

The Annual Conference set the stage to debate on the challenges Africa will face in the coming years, together with the new possibilities opening up by RES4Africa’s productive dialogue with the main international public and private players in the renewables business.


“Hosting the Annual Conference in Africa proves a unique opportunity to expand our interaction with public and private stakeholders, multilateral institutions and grassroots organizations. The RES4Africa Foundation is working to boost access to clean energy, by fostering an inclusive and sustainable development.”

– Antonio Cammisecra, President RES4Africa Foundation, CEO Enel Green Power


Population growth and resulting rapid urbanization rates that will mark out the African continent for the next 30 years (with over 60% of the population moving in urban areas), are all issues that need to be solved by sustainable growth and fueled by renewable power.


“We’re hard at work with our Ethiopian partners and we’re proud of this: here is where we’ve carried out our kick-off program just 2 years ago, and we’ve come back in March to attend a B2G workshop with over 100 delegates, where we hosted executive seminars and outlined strategies that support Ethiopia’s government in its transition towards renewables. Furthermore, our Micro-Grid Academy, usually based in Nairobi, hosted a special On-Tour session in Addis-Ababa this week.”

– Roberto Vigotti, Secretary General RES4Africa Foundation


Ample coverage was provided to the presentation of renewAfrica, the initiative tasked with spurring Africa’s transition to sustainable energy while boosting private European investments south of the Mediterranean. 


“Renewable energy is key to achieving the United Nations’ SDGs and tackling climate change. Renewables are now the least-cost source of new power generation in most countries today and they represent our most effective way to expand energy access. Moreover, renewable energy is the key enabler of human health, the environment and global prosperity. Global leaders must come together to accelerate the energy transition.”

– Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA

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The official kick-off for renewAfrica took place in Rome on June 4 2019, closing off with a statement of intent signed by 20 institutions working on various fields in the renewables sector.


#EnelFocusOn: renewables for Africa’s sustainable future

On June 18, Addis Ababa first hosted the #EnelFocusOn event, the itinerant forum now at its sixteenth edition. Isabella Panizza (Head of Global Communications Digital Hub Enel), David Pilling (Editor Financial Times Africa), Antonio Cammisecra (CEO Enel Green Power), Vera Songwe (Executive Secretary of the UN Commission for Africa) and Michele Bologna (Head of Communications EGP) debated with a group of international influencers and experts on the chances of speeding up Africa’s electrification process. 


“Africa’s urbanization is to be based on densely populated cities with a world-class public transport. At the end of the line, the challenge lies in setting the ground for smart cities to spring up.”

– David Pilling, Editor Financial Times Africa


Access to electricity in Africa needs a swift change of pace. 57% of Sub-Saharan Africa is left without electricity and this figure rises to a whopping 72% in rural areas.

The demographic trend is on a constant upward trajectory: by 2050 the African continent’s population will climb to 2.5 billion from today’s 1.3 billion. According to UNforecasts, this figure is set to reach 4 billion by the end of this century.  


“By following the Shared Value model in rural areas, a small-plot farmer can achieve decent standards of living, for himself and his community. This is what we want to witness more and more in the future.”

– Karen Basiye, Sustainability and Shared Value Specialist Safaricom


The path leading to Africa’s electrification has now been blazed. The timing is right to invest in innovative strategies (like the Water-Energy-Food “Nexus”) that attracts a new breed of partnerships. Now it’s crucial to identify and overcome the barriers that hamper the growth of Africa’s renewables market, to share international best practices and to promote new instruments that enable to bridge Africa’s competitiveness gap on global markets by ushering in new investments.

We’re left with the certainty that renewables will be the emissions-free engine that will fuel the most important and widespread electrification process of our times.

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