COTE D’IVOIRE – Stakeholders in the energy industry have called for restructuring of  financing mechanisms in order to enable the development of off-grid and mini-grid connectivity in Africa.

The sentiment was made during the 5th Energy Access Investment Forum in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, for the first time on the continent.

According to Marcus Wiemann, Executive Director of ARE and the 2019 Conference Chair, such forums present a major platform in which various stakeholders can deliberate on issues pertaining sustainable investments in Africa’s energy industry.

“This forum is certainly an opportunity for investors, project developers and other stakeholders to learn more about upcoming support schemes, innovative products and new business models to accelerate rural electrification and advance the market for decentralised renewable energies,” Marcus said.

The African Development Bank (AfDB), as a major finance institution, has developed various financing instruments for engaging the off-grid and mini-grid sector.

This is signified by its sponsorship and anchor investment in the Facility for Energy Inclusion (FEI), a US$500 million debt financing facility targeting small scale renewable energy projects.

Speaking during the forum, Daniel Schroth, acting director of renewable energy & energy efficiency at the African Development Bank said;

“Meeting the universal electricity access objective within the next decade will require the roll-out of off-grid and mini-grid solutions at scale.”

In his contribution, Joao Cunha, Manager of the renewable energy initiatives division at the African Development Bank, said: “The African Development Bank has been a strong supporter of Africa’s energy sector.

It’s a top priority…we can see that the sector is evolving as decentralized energy systems are fast expanding with the proliferation of off-grid technologies…so, de-risking investment upfront is key to attracting more investment.”

Various studies have revealed that despite Africa’s significant energy resources endowments, close to 600 million people on the continent are still without access to electricity which has been largely pinned to inadequate investment.

Additionally, Mahama Kappiah, Executive Director of ECREEE, noted lack of adequate project management in Africa’s energy sector as another major drawback to private investments.

“The money is not the problem. The way projects in the energy sector are prepared for financing is the problem…we need to address the institutional and regulatory issues in the energy sector so that Africa can attract more private investments,” Kappiah said.

Long Cheng, General Manager for Africa at Trina Solar, said that solar energy is “an important contributor to the continent’s climate agenda” in providing solutions that meet the needs of rural communities in Africa.

The energy investment forum brings together public, private, and other stakeholders to encourage clean energy access globally, and particularly in Africa.

The forum was organized with the support from AfDB, the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE), GET.invest, ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and UNIDO.