Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa highlights opportunities for region in closing energy access gap

By Beth Woodthorpe-Evans, Media Relations Specialist

More than 400 participants from government, business and civil society met in Kigali, Rwanda last week at the Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa.

The three-day event focused on actions that are needed to advance sustainable energy development across the region, including electricity and clean cooking access, investment needs for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in East Africa, mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment and the urban energy challenges that East African cities face.

“There is a need to work together with partners and identify key areas for development of sustainable energy in the region, as part of our efforts of fulfilling the pledge made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the associated Sustainable Development Goals’, said H.E. James Musoni, Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure, during the opening day.

The Forum was organized by the East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EACREEE), in collaboration with Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the EAC Secretariat, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), and the Ministry of Infrastructure of the Republic of Rwanda (MININFRA).

Delivering the keynote speech, Rachel Kyte, Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, focused on the region’s energy opportunities and ways to effectively address the challenge of universal access. She focused on three priorities: putting energy efficiency at the forefront of the discussion; accelerating planning and implementation of national electrification plans with centralized and decentralized energy; and supporting finance that prioritizes projects that help close energy access gaps, especially for marginalized ‘last-mile’ populations living in remote areas.

“There is a lot of good happening in East Africa’s energy transition,” Kyte said. “However, progress is not at the speed or scale we need to ensure that we don’t leave anyone behind. Continued strong political leadership is crucial to achieve energy productivity across economies, accelerate progress on access to electricity and clean fuels for cooking, and to further increase the share of renewable energy in the mix. East Africa has abundant renewable resources and business ingenuity and can attract financing. With disciplined leadership and greater ambition, it can deliver an energy future for everyone.”

The theme of leaving no one behind and a just energy transition for all EAC countries was echoed throughout the high-level opening session. H.E. James D'Ujanga, Uganda’s Minister of State for Energy focused on the transformative role energy can have. “Access to energy transforms people’s lives. It changes the way they behave, their productivity and engages the most marginalized in society," he said.

While various sessions showcased wide-ranging country-by-country experiences, from scaling up access to electricity to clean cooking fuels, there was broad agreement on the need for new policies and increased financing for renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Participants agreed that to accelerate these efforts, a combination of public and private, and domestic and international financing, is required.

Another key forum topic was the relationship between energy and gender. SEforALL hosted a People-Centered Accelerator networking side event at the Forum, connecting partners who are committed to working on women’s empowerment, gender equality and social inclusion in sustainable energy.

The Accelerator, which was launched by SEforALL and over 40 partners at COP23 last year, focuses on promoting the inclusion of women and the poorest people in society within efforts to achieve universal access to sustainable energy services, and related business opportunities, to secure a just energy transition that leaves no one behind.

The side-event briefed organizations from across East Africa on the three core work streams of the Accelerator, including: demonstrate and help scale-up sustainable access pathways for the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach people; help direct capital to gender-responsive and socially inclusive energy businesses to support faster delivery of sustainable access solutions; and empower women engaged in energy service delivery to achieve autonomy, authority, and decision-making power at work and thereby accelerate progress on international climate change and sustainable energy goals.

Rachel Kyte delivering remarks at the People-Centered Accelerator side-event in Kigali, Rwanda

Find out more about the work of the Accelerator here.