Africa energy issues highlighted at Casablanca forum

Friday 04/03/2016
Hani Salem Sonbol (R) of the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) and Mohamed el-Kettani, chairman and CEO of Attijariwafa bank signing a Memorandum of Understanding.

Casablanca - Africa needs to focus on energy as a top prior­ity, said Hani Salem Sonbol of the Interna­tional Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) on the sidelines of the fourth Interna­tional Africa Development Forum (IADF).
Sonbol, acting chief executive of­ficer (CEO) of ITFC, said the group, an autonomous entity within the International Development Bank (IDB), “is supporting small farmers in various sectors, such as cotton and exports. It helps build the ca­pacities of the African farmers and entrepreneurs in a bid to integrate in the global system.”
The IADF’s forum in late Febru­ary focused on the theme Agricul­ture and Electrification: Harnessing Energies. More than 2,400 partici­pants from 29 countries took part in the event organised by Attija­riwafa bank and Maroc Export to discuss problems facing Africa.
Sonbol told The Arab Weekly that microfinance was a major fi­nancial instrument IDB was giving a high priority in Africa.
He cited Morocco as a leader in using renewable energy. “Moroc­co, for example, has been advanc­ing very quickly and providing a lot of resources for the energy sector. African countries should follow suit in order to reduce their dependency on imported energy,” he said.
Morocco is becoming a leading renewable energy hub thanks to its multibillion-dollar clean ener­gy projects, such as its Noor solar power plant.
“We are part of the energy devel­opment process where we support the energy sector in Africa,” said Sonbol, adding that there was a need to better enable Africans to access energy.
ITFC has provided more than $2 billion to support Morocco’s strategic sectors since its creation, especially the energy and steel in­dustries.
Sonbol signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mo­hamed el-Kettani, chairman and CEO of Attijariwafa bank for op­portunities for trade financing in Morocco and Africa in accordance with sharia.
“The MoU seeks to promote a long-term and comprehensive re­lationship between ITFC and At­tijariwafa bank in various areas, including bilateral treasury and in­terbank transactions for liquidity investment and borrowing foreign exchange,” Kettani said.
“The cooperation between the two financial corporations will also involve identifying opportu­nities for structured trade finance operations in Morocco and other markets in Africa.”
Moroccan Minister of Agricul­ture and Maritime Fishing Aziz Akhannouch said Africa has made much progress in the past dec­ade. However, he emphasised that “much remains to be done”, par­ticularly in rural development in­volving food security for 200 mil­lion Africans.
Jean-Louis Borloo, chairman of Energies pour l’Afrique foundation (Energies for Africa), said at the forum that offsetting the energy deficit in Africa would generate double-digit annual growth rates.
“Africa had 180 million inhab­itants in 1950. It is now reaching the threshold of 1 billion, of which 750 million do not have access to energy and therefore to light. Off­setting this deficit would enable Africa to achieve an annual growth rate of 15%,” he said.
“Morocco is an example in the field of decentralised energy and all the heads of state that I met rec­ognise the Moroccan expertise and undeniable progress in rural elec­trification in Morocco… thanks to the Moroccan king’s guidance.”
Alassane Ba, acting CEO of Afri­ca50 infrastructure fund, stressed the importance of having a real desire to get Africa out of the dark­ness by finding the funding mech­anisms and resources necessary to do so.
Globeleq Cameroon CEO Freder­ic Mvondo, described the collabo­ration between the public and pri­vate sectors as inevitable to carry out worthwhile projects.
Ali Fassi Fihri, director-general of ONEE, noted that the electri­fication work in Africa should be done urgently.
“Today there are several strat­egies over the medium and long term that will enable us to suc­ceed [in] this great project. Sev­eral studies have shown that the cost of non-electrification is more important than that of electrifica­tion,” Fihri said.
Zahra Maafiri, director-general of Maroc Export, said: “The eco­nomic development of the African continent is a matter that must mobilise and converge towards a common end all the forces of Af­rica.
“The key to development is in­tegration, first at the regional level and then across the continent.”