UNIDO 9th Ministerial Conference of LDCs - Virtual Side Event on accelerating the energy transition within the African Continental Free Trade Area

In the framework of the 9th UNIDO Ministerial Conference of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), UNIDO is organizing a panel discussion entitled "Accelerating the energy transition through integrated and inclusive regional markets for renewable energy and energy efficiency products and services within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)". The event is organized under the Global Network of Regional Sustainable Energy Centers (GN-SEC) program and the Energy Efficient Lighting and Appliances (EELA) project. It contributes to various priorities of the upcoming 5th United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDC5) and the Doha Programme of Action to be adopted. It also facilitates discussion on the operationalization of the sustainable African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).  It will take place on 25 November 2021 at 17:00 - 18:30 CEST via Zoom.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the continent's most ambitious integration initiative, anchored in the African Union's Agenda 2063. Its main objective is to create a single continental market for products and services with free movement of people and investment, thereby expanding intra-African trade across the continent, improving competitiveness, and supporting economic transformation in Africa.

The expansion and harmonization of regional markets for renewable energy and energy efficiency products and services is an essential pillar of the AfCFTA and can accelerate the energy and climate transition on the continent. This vision goes beyond the interconnection of transmission and pipelines to encompass the entire value chain of manufacturing and servicing sustainable energy products. Most African countries have set ambitious targets for grid-connected and distributed renewable energy. There is a growing demand for a wide range of grid-connected and off-grid solutions, including digital devices. In addition, there is a significant shift in the market towards more efficient lighting and appliances that comply with harmonized standards.

These trends allow domestic energy entrepreneurs and businesses to get a "fair" share of the investment in revenue and job creation. However, as production capacities in Africa are unevenly distributed, barriers related to inter-regional trade and quality standards need to be further reduced. An inclusive energy transition requires special attention to local value creation, supply-side incentives, standards, quality infrastructure, and business models. However, least developed countries (LDCs) in particular are often reduced to the role of importers. This issue questions the long-term sustainability of investments in decentralized mini-grids and off-grid renewable energy systems and energy efficiency in general. The lack of domestic research and development, entrepreneurship, and innovation hinder the commercialization of solutions adapted to the realities of least developed countries and small island developing states in Africa.

Over the past decade, UNIDO has developed the Global Network of Regional Sustainable Energy Centres (GN-SECs) in close partnership with Regional Economic Communities (RECs). UNIDO supports establishing such centers through a joint platform and facilitates South-South and triangular cooperation on energy solutions of common interest. The network covers the entire African continent, with the recently established Central African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CEREEAC). It complements the important work of regional energy pools and regulators.

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