Africa energy issues highlighted at Casablanca forum
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.”