Renewable energy in international and regional governance: Propelling development in Africa

Energy is slowly accepted as a key dimension of sustainable development and a key factor for emerging frameworks of global and regional governance. This bodes well for the development of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa where energy poverty is a key component of extreme poverty.

Over the past several years, economic news from the African continent have been quite up-lifting, with many countries boasting growth rates that are reminiscent of some of the Asian tigers (albeit with much higher population growth rates). Nevertheless, there are still many development challenges in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular in rural areas. Energy poverty is usually part and parcel of extreme poverty, and it is only quite recently that the international community has started to recognize the crucial role of modern energy services to unlock the full potential of persons and communities.

The article by Irene Giner-Reichl, President of the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy, REN21 Steering Committee Member and Austria’s Ambassador to the PR of China and Mongolia, sketches some of the main strands – both normative and operational – of giving energy, and particularly renewable energy, greater prominence in international cooperation. As the author highlights, for the first time energy is taken seriously as a dimension of global governance and strengthened at the regional level, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. This emergence of energy as a factor of sustainable development is starting to transform the landscape, including and in particular in Africa.

The changing role and recognition of energy as a key factor for sustainable development is vividly described in the article, from its slow conquest of the sustainable development agenda to a new form of international cooperation on Sustainable Energy for All, and the UN Decade on Sustainable Energy for ALL (2014-2024). A post-2015 sustainable development paradigm will be defined this year, which according to the report of the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals, shall entail energy objectives in its Goal 7. Regional cooperation institutions like the ECOWAS Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for the Arab States (RCREEE) have been set up, acting as role models for a number of centers being currently created in and outside of Africa. In October 2015, the South African International Renewable Energy Conference (SAIREC) will be the first International Renewable Energy Conference taking place on African soil (I.Giner-Reichl, Energy Research & Social Science 5(2015) 116-119).

If you wish to read more on the promising outlook of these developments on the global level and on the African continent, you can find the full article by Irene Giner-Reichl here.

This article was published in February 2015 in Energy Research & Social Science, (Special Issue on Renewable Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa)

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