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AERC’s Biannual Plenary on Africa’s Energy Renewal

Africa has some of the world’s largest and least exploited renewable energy resources. There is a vast untapped potential in hydro-power and reserves of natural gas. The continent is richly endowed with renewable energy sources, but access to clean modern energy is still a pipedream for many Africans. However, countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa are now leading the efforts to harness these energy resources. Some of Africa’s smaller countries including Cape Verde, Djibouti, Rwanda and Swaziland have also set ambitious renewable energy targets. Most of these nations already have small-scale solar, wind, and geothermal devices in operation to provide energy.

The applications of renewable energy technology has the potential to alleviate many of the problems that face Africans on a daily basis, especially if done so in a sustainable manner that prioritizes human rights. Africa has the potential to deploy modern renewables to eliminate power shortages, bring electricity and development opportunities to rural villages that have never enjoyed those benefits, spur on industrial growth, create entrepreneurs, and support increased prosperity across the continent.

We must accelerate the pace of the continent’s energy transformation. Effective international cooperation can transform what is possible in Africa. Increased support for investment in renewable energy would greatly expand the scope for development of low-carbon energy. This is what inspired the theme of the 46th plenary session of the African Economic Research Consortium’s (AERC) Biannual Research Workshop which is on Africa’s Energy Renewal, said Prof. Lemma W. Senbet, Executive Director, AERC on the eve of the event.

The conference opened its doors at 9:00 am on Sunday June 4, 2017 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The chief Guest was Gov. Lesetja Kganyago, Governor South African Reserve Bank. The session featured three presentations by distinguished economists. These included: Beyond the Grid: Engineering, Institutions and Finance” by Prof. Laurence Harris, University of London, UK; “To What Extent Do Good Policies and Governance Matter in Attracting Investment in Energy in Africa?” by Prof. Sy, Amadou Nicolas Racine, IMF, USA; and “Renewable Electricity Generation: Implications of Cost, Returns and Investments to African Economies by Dr. Hellen Osiolo, The Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), Kenya.

Discussions on these papers were led by Dr Rabah Arezki, International Monetary Fund (IMF), USA, and Dr. Keith Jefferis, Econsult Botswana. Thereafter, active discussions by the participants made up of senior African policy makers, economists from all over the world, development partners and researchers from Africa and beyond took place. A public/private sector policy roundtable that was scheduled later wound up the activities for the day.

Concurrent sessions of the workshop started on Monday June 5, 2017. They featured 85 presentations of research proposals, work in progress, final reports and PhD theses proposals. These covered a wide range of topics that fit into the focal areas of AERC’s thematic research programme namely:  Group A: Poverty, Labour Markets and Income Distribution; Group B: Macroeconomic Policy and Growth; Group C: Finance and Resource Mobilization; Group D: Production, Trade and Economic Integration; and Group E: Agriculture, Climate Change and Natural Resource Management.

 

The AERC also played host to one back-to-back workshop during this period at the same venue:

Ø  There was the AERC Policy Brief Training Workshop. Thisworkshop was held on June,  9-11, 2017 with upto 25 participants and policy makers taking part. The objective of the workshop was to build capacity and skills in communicating research to maximize uptake of research outputs and impact.

Special sesssions were also conducted on various topics on different days:

Ø  The first was one on Global and Regional Value Chains in Southern and Eastern Africa: How to Best Harness the Potential for Regional Cooperation – by Talitha Bertelsmann-Scott, Asmita Parshotam, Chelsea Markowitz of South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) and Reena das Nair, Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development (CCRED). This took place on Monday, June 5, 2017.

Ø  There was also another special session by The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on Tuesday, June 6, 2017.

 

 

Each of the AERC’s biannual research workshops attracts about 200 researchers, academics, policy makers and other economists who participate in the Research Programme. The workshops provide a forum in which the participants can meet each other within a worldwide network of professionals, and deal with issues relevant to Africa’s economic development. They also provide an opportunity for monitoring the progress and quality of the various research projects sponsored by AERC, thereby fulfilling one of its major mandates – to strengthen local capacity for conducting independent, rigorous inquiry into problems facing the management of economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

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