Looking back at this year’s Africa Energy Forum
Djembe’s Drummers from Angola and Nigeria, with support from our Swiss-based Drummers, attended the 19th African Energy Forum in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 7-9 June. This premier forum gathered over 2000 of the top decision-makers across Africa’s energy, infrastructure, industrial, and power sectors and brought together energy consumers, financial institutions, government officials, technology providers, utility regulators, and power developers. The forum was organized by EnergyNet, which coordinates forums related to the power generation and industrial sectors across Africa and Latin America, and Djembe was pleased to support EnergyNet as a media partner.
AEF’s panel discussions ranged across the energy landscape about how to power Africa with off-grid energy solutions, renewable energy projects, and other measures to bridge the gap between temporary and permanent power. To ensure that African countries and their respective local energy needs were addressed, regional sessions were held for Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania to name only a few. Djembe’s Nigerian Country Manager, Onome Okwah, was particularly impressed with the working roundtables. He remarked, “Nigeria’s energy sector has faced difficulties in the last few years, but it is inspiring to see the key power drivers and instruments from the public and private sector coming together from all over Africa to identify bottlenecks and determine how to ensure Africa is powered up”. It was especially relevant to hear from local and global energy providers including General Electric and private sector financiers such as Denham Capital as well as the Nigerian Ministry of Energy and other international organizations investing in energy projects across Nigeria.
Other panels discussed the engagement of the private sector and the need for government officials to realize the promise of power and energy sources across Africa. Several working roundtables centered on the role of development finance institutions and their capacity to support energy development. With such a diverse mix of participants, it was a great chance to discuss the challenges and opportunities across African energy projects, including the importance of ensuring project financing guarantees and how project structuring must be done properly from the onset. It was especially relevant to hear representatives of the European Investment Bank, the Independent Power Producers Projects (IPP) from South Africa, and the World Bank’s Project Finance and Guarantees share their perspectives as there are “…mismatches across private and public sector of what lenders and investors expect“, stated Jonathan Berman, Managing Director, Fieldstone Africa. Energy advisors and commissioners for African governments were also present to work towards resolving existing barriers preventing projects from moving forward, as it became apparent that effective risk management must be done to unblock the road to private investments, which are crucially needed to expedite the African energy sector.
This gathering was also a huge opportunity for African governments to pitch their electricity projects and investment needs with two-minute pitches from different ministries. After each presentation, the energy providers and investors gave their feedback. This rotation around the different markets, particularly with projects locally in Lusophone and Francophone markets, was quite valuable. Djembe’s Angolan Country Manager, Olivio Gambo commented that “Energy is a crucial area for Africa’s development, and it is extremely promising to hear directly from the international investor funding institutions, particularly the Nordic development finance institutions such as FinnFund, NorFund, SweFund, regarding the latest sustainable energy trends, investment opportunities and projects in Lusophone markets”. African countries are making great progress in terms of power access and there is a strong commitment from both global institutions and private companies.
In general, huge opportunities for investments in alternative energy remain and it is undeniable that actors must work together for the African continent. Andrew M. Herscowitz, the Coordinator for the US Agency for International Development’s Power Africa initiative who moderated the USA-Africa Commercial Partnership roundtable, shared his parting remark on how to outline steps moving forward. On his Twitter account, he urged participants to “Move #PowerAfrica deals faster. Move that action to the top of your inbox. Act. Bring power 1 day, 1 month, 1 year sooner.” This admirable drive towards pushing through Africa’s energy development was the common motivation among the participants of this year’s Africa Energy Forum.
By Mi Thich, Account Executive, Switzerland