With more than 16% of the world population in 2017, Africa accounts only for 5% of the world’s global primary energy use. Moreover, in most African countries 70 to 80% of used energy is generated from traditional biomass (wood fuel). Africa has abundant energy resources (fossil and renewable energy). However, the main issue remains energy access. In sub-Saharan Africa, the average electrification rate is just 35%. In rural areas it is even lower (below 20%).
If not adequately planned, energy production and consumption can be a major contributor to climate change, but climate change will also have an impact on the energy sector – for instance, weather related extremes might impact energy infrastructure, while future climatic conditions may open/preclude renewable energy opportunities. Replacing fossil fuel-based energy supply by renewable energy sources is a mitigation measure to climate change and a valuable sustainable solution to increasing energy access in Africa. Renewable energy can be collected from a wide variety of sources including solar, wind, hydro, sustainable biomass (including waste), geothermal, wave, and tidal.
Renewable energy, which is an employment opportunity across the world, will give Africa the opportunity to leapfrog technology developments and develop cost-effective, locally adaptive and sustainable solutions. Energy transition towards renewable energy should go hand in hand with electrification efforts in Africa.
Together with renewable energy, energy efficiency is an important component of sustainable energy development. Energy efficiency is also a cost-effective strategy for development in Africa as it aims at decreasing energy consumption without hindering economic growth. It also has a huge potential on consumer side as it reduces costs for energy consumption (e.g., in households).
Due to population density and power consumption characteristics, energy efficiency is most effective in urban areas, both in Africa and Europe. However, its importance will also grow rapidly in rural areas, along with increasing demand for energy there. For African rural areas, energy efficiency gain from sustainable use of biomass, regarding the huge consumption of wood fuel (70-80% of used energy), will limit the problem of land degradation and deforestation.
Africa is a unique partner for the EU for historical and geographical reasons. The high degree of interdependence between Africa and Europe as well as the shared principles of equal partnership and joint ownership have contributed to the development of a long-term, broad and evolving partnership across various policy areas. Africa, with a population of 1.2 billion people -the second largest continental population- has seen its share of world GDP grow since 2004; in 2014, Africa’s share reached 3.2%, compared with 1.9% ten years earlier. Although the GDP per capita for Africa as a whole was just € 1638 in 2014, it had more than doubled since 2004.1 Africa is the third most important international trade partner for the EU after Asia and Northern America; in 2014 it accounted for around 9% of both the imports to the EU-28 and the exports from the EU-28. On the other hand, the EU remains Africa’s biggest partner either for trade, development aid or investment; it is estimated that around a fifth of global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows in Africa comes from EU companies. This partnership goes far beyond trade; over the period 2014-2020, the EU will invest almost €40 billion for the African continent, with a focus on development and other priorities, such as governance, migration and human rights, human development, energy and infrastructure and sustainable agriculture and food security.
Two main frameworks govern EU relations with Africa: the Cotonou agreement which provides a legal basis for relations with Sub-Saharan African countries together with Caribbean and Pacific countries; and the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) adopted by the African and European Heads of State at the Lisbon Summit in 2007. The Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) is the political framework steering relations with the whole African continent. It has changed the nature of the relationship between Africa and the EU to one based on partnership, egalitarian relationships, shared objectives and mutual benefits and risks. It developed a long term vision on how to ensure peace and security, and how to leverage faster socio-economic growth and sustainable development in Africa. The EU-ACP Cooperation Programme on Science & Technology phase I (EUR 35 million 2000-2007) financed 36 projects. In the second phase of the programme (EUR 23 million, 2008-2013) 21 projects were financed. Its focus is on Energy Access and Efficiency as well as Agriculture and Food Security. African Union Research Grants (20 million euros between 2008 and 2013; 17.5 million euros in 2016-2017) provide funding to the African Union Commission (AUC) to organise calls for proposals for collaborative research projects and to fund the selected projects. It has two objectives: 1) to support collaborative researches that contribute to the sustainable development of African countries and the fight against poverty, while respecting ethical and gender issues (through the calls, the African Union Commission supported research in post-harvest agriculture, renewable and sustainable energy and water and sanitation); and 2) to develop the capacity of the AUC to design, implement and monitor R&D funding programmes and, ultimately establish an efficient, credible and reputable African framework programme for research and innovation (R&I), which can also attract funds from other sources.
Addressing climate change is of common interest to Africa and Europe. Therefore, the EU-Africa cooperation chose Climate Action and Sustainable Energy as its second priority for the R&I Partnership. Since 2016 the AU-EU HLPD Bureau with the support of several experts from Europe and Africa has worked on laying the basis for a truly jointly developed, governed, managed and co-funded AU- EU R&I Partnership, building on and leveraging existing initiatives between the continents. The Partnership is fully in line with and guided by the global policy framework. It commits itself to the fulfilment of the five quality criteria, mentioned in the Preamble (relevance, impact, capacity, scalability and complementarity).
Responding to the high vulnerability to the adverse consequences of climate change, and aiming at providing tools to harness the growth and development potential of a low-carbon economy, it provides considerable support to climate action for adaptation and mitigation measures. In particular, the development and deployment of climate services contributes to inform decision makers and help them in their risk governance and management. It will also support a new and flourishing market, boosting innovation and public- private partnerships for the better future for both Africa and Europe.