By Addis Getachew
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) - At least 600 million people in Africa lack access to electricity, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) statement on Wednesday.
"In Sub-Saharan Africa, three out of five people don’t have access to electricity," Executive Director Fatih Birol said at the opening of the First Ministerial Forum of the African Union Commission and the IEA in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
Addressing the gathering that included officials, experts and representatives from various international organizations, he called for innovation and investment to rectify the lack of energy in the region, which he said was "unacceptable in economic and moral terms."
Birol also called attention to the need to ensure clean cooking which he said caused respiratory diseases and increased deaths from tuberculosis and AIDS.
Though Africa is rich in a wide range of energy resources including solar, bio, natural gas, oil, coal and Uranium, the continent is far from energy self sufficiency.
With many African countries reluctant to liberalize their electricity sectors due to energy security concerns, Birol told Anadolu Agency that private investment and security were not mutually exclusive.
"No country should take it (security issue) as an excuse," said Birol who was named by Forbes magazine as one the most influential people on the global energy scene and recognized by the Financial Times in 2017 as Energy Personality of the Year.
For her part, Energy and Infrastructure Commissioner of the African Union Commission Amani Abou-Zeid said more and more countries in Africa were revisiting their policies to open up to the private sector.
"The AUC-IEA Ministerial Forum offers a unique opportunity to assemble senior political figures, policymakers and CEOs to engage in a policy dialogue identifying opportunities and best practices for developing and investing in Africa’s energy markets," said the program description circulated by the AUC, which said the event was intended to be organized on a yearly basis.
Participants are expected to discuss several issues including universal electricity and clean cooking access, the dissemination of technical developments for economic growth and sustainability and infrastructure construction.