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Keynote von Staatsminister Niels Annen beim Deutsch-Afrikanischen Energieforum

27.03.2019 - Rede

-- es gilt das gesprochene Wort -.

Welcome to my hometown Hamburg. We call our hometown the “Gate to the world”. In Hamburg we feel European and we feel global. Therefore, I feel at home at the Foreign Office, where I can promote this open attitude which represents Germany, its people and its companies.

It’s a pleasure for me to be here and address some points regarding German Africa policy and the development of the energy sector in Africa. The German government has substantially increased its cooperation with Africa in the recent years.

The overall framework for our engagement with the African continent is defined in Germany’s Federal Policy Guidelines for Africa. We have been working on an update, which – as a matter of fact – should be adopted by the German federal cabinet today.

The update identifies five priorities for cooperation with our African partners:

  1. Peace, security&stability,
  2. sustainable economic development, economic growth, prosperity and employment,
  3. Migration and the protection of refugees,
  4. Strengthening the rules-based global order and
  5. The cooperation with civil society.

Let me give you some examples regarding economic cooperation – an area, where we have stepped up our efforts significantly: Take for instance the Compact with Africa initiative, which was launched during Germany’s recent G20 presidency to improve the framework conditions for private investment.

We are convinced that sustainable economic growth and development can only be achieved if the private sector will be involved to a much greater extent.

The potential of African entrepreneurs has lain idle in many countries. European and German investors had been reluctant to engage in business in Africa. Reliable framework conditions and the rule of law are essential for both: national African entrepreneurs as well as German or European businessmen and –women.

Last October, Chancellor Merkel welcomed several heads of state of Compact countries in Berlin to a conference on the state of play of the initiative. She also took the opportunity to announce several measures to promote private investment in Africa,

  • such as the setup of a development investment fund with an overall volume of up to 1 Billion Euros,
  • improved conditions for covering risks of German investments and exports to Compact with Africa partner countries
  • or the extension of local currency and risk financing.

When it comes to sustainable economic development, the energy sector is important on two counts:

Firstly: reliable access to energy encourages entrepreneurship and investment and has a positive influence on employment, but also on education and health. Restricted access to energy is a constraint for development and investment.

That’s why we want to expand our activities in the context of energy partnerships in Africa.

Currently, Germany maintains energy partnerships in Africa with Algeria, Angola, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa and Tunisia. In addition, the German government supports the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative AREI, as ‘Africa-led effort to accelerate, scale-up and harness the continent’s huge potential in renewable energy resources’, launched in 2015 at the Paris COP 21.

Secondly, the energy sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in Africa. The investment opportunities are vast – that is why I would like to take the opportunity to particularly promote private investment in renewable energies and energy efficiency.

Preparing this keynote, I thought briefly about starting with a trailer of a movie that recently was launched, entitled ‘The boy who harnessed the wind’.

It’s the story of a boy in Malawi who is helping his family and community to survive by constructing a wind mill with discarded metal and wood. His mill is pumping water onto the fields so that his people are able to harvest their crops.

All across the world and, of course, also in Germany, people have been using the power of wind for generations. The owner of such a mill was a wealthy man with guaranteed returns after having invested into building his mill. And for the people it was more profitable to sell their flour than their grains because it could be used directly for further processing in households and bakeries.

There also were thousands of smaller and larger water mills. But the majority of these mills were installed in mountainous areas to power driving belts with hammers and bellows in order to process iron. Not only the workers in the mill, but also all the people in the literal downstream process benefitted from the power of water.

Although these first wind and water mills didn’t generate electricity, they were our first power houses: off-grid and spread all over the landscape - they provided income, allowed downstream production and generated local prosperity.

By the way: In Germany the family name of “Müller” and “Schmidt”, which means “Miller” and “Smith”, are still the most numerous family names in Germany.

The African continent is blessed with water, wind and sun - and with a topography that allows for the harvesting of these resources nearly everywhere!

But, as we already have heard, more than 60% of the about 1 billion people without access to electricity live in Sub-Saharan Africa. How is this possible?

There are huge hydro power dams in some African countries, and there are plenty of power stations fueled with oil, gas or coal. But they stand for a centralized and often environment-harmful approach. And the industry and the population are demanding even more electricity to push the level of industrialization in Africa.

Energy efficiency and renewables in particular are perfect to bridge this gap:

Solar Cells and Photovoltaic Modules have undergone a significant reduction in production costs. They will help to buffer temporary shortfalls. Renewables, be it wind, solar or water, are perfectly suited for off grid and remote areas. Installations for the use of these sources can be done modular and combined - and in a timely manner. And these installations will then be your power houses spread all over the country and generating electricity and local prosperity.

Here I will come back to the movie and the boy William Kamkwamba, who finished his school and excelled at the university.

Today this man is engaged in improving entrepreneurship in his community: the grocer, who benefits from fresh vegetables helps the farmer to buy a wind mill by granting him a credit. The higher revenues in William’s community made it possible, that more children can pay for school - which needed to be extended in the meantime. The best pupils get support for further studies – and later will come back with new ideas for business!

The more off grid power houses there are, the less intense the influx of desperate people into the cities and megacities of Africa will be. Renewable Energy will allow prosperity in communities also in rural areas.

In Germany, after WW II, power generating was centralized. But the ‘Energiewende’ – the German “Man on the moon”-project, is bringing us back to the decentralized approach of generating energy. To a great extent by renewables, mostly windfarms and solar panels: on some days in the year they even cover 100% of the country’s demand!

Also German industry is joining in: The BMW group plans to have 100 % renewable energy by 2020, Audi and Daimler are using PV and wind, the Deutsche Post offers to send climate neutral letters and parcels, several supermarket chains feed their stores with 100 % renewable energy, Pharma- and Metal-industries are using PV to cover up to 30%+ of their production.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very convinced that - in the nearest future - thanks to renewables - energy will be the booster of your economies! And your challenges will lie somewhere else!

In less than two weeks, the Federal Foreign Office will host the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, with more than 2,000 participants and more than 40 Ministerial delegations one of the biggest conferences in the world on energy transition. I would be very glad to see you again there in my second home.


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