Transformational energy access critical for economic growth, as Malawi launches the UNCTAD’s 2017 Least Developed Countries ReportNov 24, 2017
The United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Malawi on the 23rd November 2017 launched the 2017 Least Developed Countries (LDC) Report titled “Transformational Energy Access”. The 2017 Report focuses on the crucial role that access to modern energy plays in economic structural transformation and to enable the world’s poorest nations to realize the potential of access to energy and its use in productive sectors in the context of Sustainable Development Goals.
The official launch, which was in the form of a Press Conference at UNDP Malawi Offices was attended by the Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Mrs. Esmie Kainja; members of the press from 6 media houses; representatives from the Ministry of energy, Natural Resources, Energy and Environment; representatives of Civil Society Organizations and Parastatals working in the energy sector in Malawi.
In his opening remarks, UNDP Economics Specialist, Patrick Kamwendo emphasized on the importance of the report, considering the importance that access to energy plays in the economic transformation of any country, including Malawi.
“This Report is very important because it serves to provide valuable input to policy makers and investors to inform policies, strategies, and programmes aimed at improving energy access for all to achieve SDGs 7 and for economic development in Malawi,” Said Mr. Kamwendo.
The main part of the Launch was a presentation on the overview of the 2017 Report which was presented by Andrew Spezowka, the UNDP Portfolio Manager for Resilience and Sustainable Growth.
In his presentation, Mr. Spezowka emphasized on the need to boost the production of energy in Malawi to go beyond households’ basic energy needs and ensure that is it accessible for productive capacities which will ultimately lead to economic transformation and growth.
The report finds that 62% of people living in Least Developed Countries have no access to electricity as compared to 10% in Other Developed Countries; and that industrial and commercial consumers in the Least Developed Countries, on average, pay twice as much for electricity as compared to their counterparts in other countries.
The report further highlights on the importance of transformational energy access for rural development; the importance of access to energy and structural transformation to the achievement of SGD 7 which looks at affordable and clean energy; and the importance of quality energy services for transformational energy, which are all central to the realization of access to energy for all.
Mr. Spezowka also presented on the key recommendations outlined in the 2017 report, which include; strengthening LDC electricity systems; addressing electricity governance and financing; integrating energy and development strategies; and harnessing international cooperation to help countries graduate from the Least Developed Countries group.
In her remarks, the Secretary for Gender, Children, Disability and Social welfare, Ms. Esmie Kainja commended the report for highlighting issues of gender in relation to energy access. She however recommended that gender issues needed to come out more explicitly in the report as women in the country are more affected with challenges of access to energy which ultimately increases cases of Gender Based Violence.
“I would also like to urge government ministries and all stakeholders in the country to mainstream issues of energy because this is a critical sector and its challenges lead to drawbacks in development, and not just to the Ministry of Energy, but across all sectors,” said Mrs. Kainja.
She noted on the importance of diversifying the use of energy in the rural areas for agricultural activities to focus on alternative types of energy including wind and solar energy.
Representative of Council for NGOs in Malawi (CONGOMA), Mr. Simekinala Kaluzi also commended the findings of the report and stressed on the need for the report to be disseminated to a wider group since access to energy is a crucial issue to the development of the country. He also emphasized on the importance of localizing the report to inform on the specific and local challenges currently being faced in Malawi and how to resolve them for future policy and programme formulation.
It was also noted during the discussions that energy is one of the priority areas in the New Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III, and therefore UNDP and other partners need to liaise with Government to mainstream energy in all their sector plans for collective response to transformational energy access.
In his contribution, Mr. Edgar Bayani, the Country Director for Community Energy Malawi, a local membership organization which focuses on renewable energy, pointed out that the findings of the report present an opportunity for Malawi to prioritize on decentralized energy mini-grids as part of District Council Development Plans to ensure access to transformational energy in all areas.
“This presents an opportunity for us to advocate for the District Councils to internalize and prioritize transformational energy access in their new District Council’s Development Plans to improve service delivery at the District level. As an organization, we are an example and a learning opportunity on how using mini-grids of access to alternative sources of energy like Biogas, Small Wind Turbines, Solar and Hydro Mini Grids can help scale up production in areas that do not have access to electricity in the District Councils,” said Mr. Bayani.
In reiterating the contributions, there was consensus from the participants that there is the need to have coordinated efforts for different players including the private sector, policy makers and other stakeholders in renewable energy to bring their resources and capacities together in tackling energy access challenges and to ensure wider, holistic and coordinated outcomes.
It was also agreed that the report should be shared with all ministries and departments for future policy and programme formulation of transformation energy access and that similar studies should be undertaken in the country, focusing on how to resolve the current energy crisis.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Kaluzi of CONGOMA said that the report has come at the right time and will boost the debates around the energy crisis that is currently being faced by the country.
According to the 2017 LDC Report, the world’s 47 least developed countries (LDCs) are falling far behind the rest of the developing world in terms of getting power to homes and businesses. The report also finds that in the least developed countries, 577 million people, or 62 per cent of the population, do not have access to electricity.