A Renew-energetic Beginning



Fri, 07 Dec 2018 - 11:14 GMT


Fri, 07 Dec 2018 - 11:14 GMT

AU Commissioner Dr. Amani Abou Zeid during an interview with Egypt Today - Photo by Hossam Atef/Egypt Today

AU Commissioner Dr. Amani Abou Zeid during an interview with Egypt Today - Photo by Hossam Atef/Egypt Today

CAIRO - 7 December 2018: Energy is a major enabler and accelerator of growth in any nation, yet despite its enormous, albeit non utilized natural sources, more than 600 million Africans are lacking of access to electricity and energy efficiency. This is the top concerns holding back development on the Continent. Education and health are among many services whose development relies on a sustainable and affordable source of energy, and when it comes to this and many other items on the African Union’s agenda 2063 for achieving sustainable development across the continent, Dr. Amani Abou Zeid—who was elected in 2017 Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union (AU)—is implementing a solid plan of action.

In an exclusive interview with Business Today Egypt, she weighs in on what needs to be done to unlock untapped potentials, as well as Egypt’s new leadership of the AU.

How does the AU plan to meet Africa’s energy-related challenges?

The African Union Commission (AUC) has developed various programs that contribute to the overall development of affordable, sustainable and reliable modern energy services for all Africans. These programmes stem from the African strategy “Agenda 2063.” The AUC also has Action Plans with its partners such as the Action Plan developed following the AU-EU Heads of State Summit held in November 2017 and the one following Africa-China Summit in August 2018. In addition, the AU blue print for infrastructure and energy development, the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), launched by the AU Heads of State in 2012.

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AU Commissioner Dr. Amani Abou Zeid during an interview with Egypt Today - Photo by Hossam Atef/Egypt Today

As AUC Chair, how will Egypt play a role in this plan?

When it comes to energy, Egypt has a great story to tell and showcase—that of ensuring there is 100% access to energy, turning deficit into surplus, moving into smart grids and smart energy systems as well as diversification of energy sources, especially renewables and gas domestication. As AU Chair, Egypt can champion the implementation of plans, provide technical expertise and assistance to programs as well as supporting resources mobilization efforts and lobbying for commitments by member States and partners. We look forward to Egyptian expertise and assistance to other African countries.

With a budget deficit estimated between $130-170 billion in Africa’s infrastructure finance, what is AU's agenda to attract investments to the continent?

As we highlight the financial gap in infrastructure finance in Africa, we must also emphasize that this also means that there’s a huge opportunity for investment, especially that it is proven that investing in African infrastructure has a very high rate of return. At the AUC, we are working with our member states and our partners to attract African and international finance, also from private sector, through a process of tracking priority projects to make them bankable and more attractive to private investors. We also established a facility to conduct the pre-feasibility studies to help fast-track some of these projects. Another instrument is the infrastructure investment fund “Africa50” to catalyze public sector capital and mobilize private finance. All our member countries are also carrying out various reforms with the purpose of improving the business and investment climate, as well.

How do you assess Egypt’s energy status, especially its renewable energy potentials?

Egypt has enormous renewable resources and is a leader in the development of sustainable energy sources. It has also an excellent energy strategy, making use of the diversity of sources and ensuring a sustainable energy mix. In addition, Egypt has solid expertise and well-developed training facilities and and advanced energy private sector. Egyptian companies have long and shining history of implementing energy projects across the Continent. We look forward to seeing more Egyptian companies in the field.

How can Egypt and Africa ensure a win-win situation in energy cooperation?

Egypt’s Renewable Energy Institution can be the center of excellence recognized by AU, given that many member ttates have benefited from capacity building programs. This rich mix of skills and experiences places Egypt in a unique position to lead the energy cooperation in Africa with a win-win for all member States and collaborating partners.

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AU Commissioner Dr. Amani Abou Zeid during an interview with Egypt Today's Nourhan Magdi - Photo by Hossam Atef/Egypt Today

Ideally, where should Egypt tap its excess energy production?

Egypt is geographically located and technologically positioned to be an energy hub for the African continent, Middle East and Europe. Given this strategic convergence of factors, Egypt can serve as a clearing house and exchange point for export of energy from Africa to Europe and Middle East and then onward from Middle East to Asia. Equally energy imports from these regions into African energy market can take place through Egypt. As a hub, Egypt can make use of the different time zones, and hence peak times, to optimize the use of the energy capacity in different locations to support a vibrant energy trade.

What kind of projects do you think can enhance Egypt-Afro cooperation in energy?

There are ongoing efforts that serve this purpose demonstrated in the Programme for Infrastructure Development for Africa (PIDA), which seeks to achieve physical connectivity of the continent and facilitate power trade, as well as AUC’s plans to harmonize regulatory frameworks to enable AU states to trade through regional power pools.

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AU Commissioner Dr. Amani Abou Zeid during an interview with Egypt Today - Photo by Hossam Atef/Egypt Today

Do you think entrepreneurs can be incorporated efficiently in consolidating Egypt-African relations?

Yes. Now even more. The establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)—the largest free trade area in the world—provides huge opportunities for Egyptian entrepreneurs to foster collaborations and business relations within the African region, as Egypt has a lot of experiences and best practices to share with other African Countries.

Can hydropower be element of cooperation rather than dispute over water boundaries?

Hydropower potential of 12% of the world’s technically feasible potential is found in Africa and could generate over 1,800TW of electricity annually. Therefore, proper management of water resources is key. In the case of hydropower development, it is important for countries not to take unilateral decisions without considering upstream and downstream countries.

In order to avoid conflicts in such cases, it is critical for comprehensive and exhaustive studies supported by all the riparian countries to be carried out before undertaking the projects. One solution would be to implement projects that are collectively agreed upon through the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Power Pools and the African Union through its programs, such as PIDA.

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AU Commissioner Dr. Amani Abou Zeid during an interview with Egypt Today - Photo by Hossam Atef/Egypt Today

What is the progress made on the Yamoussoukro Decision?

The Yamoussoukro Decision on liberalization of air transport markets is the basis for the development of the aviation sector itself in the continent. Although adopted in 2000, a delay in revising Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) by some signatory states caused an adjacent delay in actual implementation.

It is unacceptable that today 80% of air transport on the Continent is non-african and that it is easier and cheaper to fly from an African capital to Europe or the Gulf and back than between African cities. Therefore joining the SAATM is Africa's best strategy (and solidarity) to ensure the economic sustainability and survival of African airlines. Otherwise, Africa, risks maintaining few, inefficient and uncompetitive (expensive) airlines with limited direct air connections between its capitals and economic cities.

We decided to speed up the process by launching the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) as flagship project of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 in January 2018. Our aim is to help regional economic integration by facilitating the movement of people and of goods and lowering costs. This is essential for the operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and e-commerce.

How can the SAATM boost the continent’s economy?

Air transport, as in all transport, ensures the physical integration of the Continent and facilitates the movement of people and goods. By increasing connectivity and making it more affordable, we directly address our ambition for an integrated, united and prosperous Africa.

Tourism, trade job creation, increased revenues and income all greatly benefit from a liberalized air space in Africa: a study in 2014 on 12 African countries demonstrated that the air services liberalization would result in an increase of average passenger volume from 6.1 to 11 million, 155,000 new employment and an accumulated $1.3 billion contribution to the annual GDPs of the countries.

Increase in flight connectivity and low fares will boost intra-Africa trade whereby more Africans will be able to travel and transport merchandise by air between many cities. The single market will facilitate logistics and services in the African continental free trade area (CFTA).

The tourism sector, which greatly depends on cost-effective air services will experience a significant boost in tourism traffic across the continent due to direct air access to many African destination, ease of travel and lower air fares.



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