Secou Sarr's viewpoint
Secou Sarr discusses West African energy policies and urges that energy be used to enhance and facilitate agriculture.
Why do we need energy policies?
Energy is a vital requirement. Access to energy is essential for us to implement structural changes under the post-2015 agenda. It is also a right, despite the fact that 645 million Africans still have no access to electricity, and most people who do are living in urban areas. Moreover, even in rural areas that now have electrical power, it is too expensive for universal access. Energy consumption levels are very low in sub-Saharan regions in Africa – 181 kWh/year/person, 30-fold below levels in Europe and 70-fold lower than in USA – not to mention the electrical service quality gap. In Senegal, power cuts have led to losses of up to 2% in GDP, in addition to serious social problems. Oil importing countries are vulnerable to oil market fluctuations. Oil costs in Senegal represented 45% of export earnings in 2009. More than 600,000 women die every year in Africa due to pollution associated with the burning of fuelwood to cook food, not to mention the carbon footprint of such practices. The energy issue is therefore multifaceted, including economic, environmental, gender and public health concerns. Efficient tailored energy policies are essential for all of these reasons.
What are the features of energy policies in Africa?
Africa has substantial potential despite its energy insecurity, with its young population and an abundance of renewable energy (solar, hydroelectric, biomass). Energy policies in Africa are linked with political mandates and thus have a very short-term focus. A trade-off between short-term political and long-term development agendas must be found. It is thus essential to implement an approach based on addressing specific local needs, because each need corresponds to an associated energy service that could boost the local economy. Unfortunately there is often no linkage between energy policies and other sectors in Africa. But energy is not an end in itself and should also serve other sectors. How can agriculture be modernised without water control, without being able to process agricultural produce, etc.?
What priority measures should be implemented?
In West Africa, value chains must be given enhanced energy access. For instance, ENDA-Energie has launched SESAL, an initiative to increase energy security and thus ensure food security in Mauritania and Senegal. In this framework, it is developing a programme to support the dairy value chain by supplying dairy farmers with solar platforms to generate electricity for milk storage, lighting, etc. The agricultural sector also has real potential for energy production. Biomass is a major niche opportunity, in terms of biogas production from fermented waste which would be a source of energy and organic fertiliser, while making effective use of farm waste. PSE – the Senegalese government’s plan for an emerging Senegal – does not consider energy as a separate sector but rather as an input. This highlights a collective awareness regarding the need to adopt a multisector approach to energy planning, but it remains to be seen how this will be translated into action. Universal access to energy services in Africa ultimately requires subsidies targeted towards renewable energy and energy efficiency.