The Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI)

The Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) was established in 2015. It is supported by various African institutions and is currently hosted by the African Development Bank (AfdB). The key distinctive feature of the initiative is that it is supported and driven by African actors.

Goals

The main objective of AREI is to drive the transformation of the African energy sector toward universal access, sustainable production and good governance. The AREI principles are also underlining the need of a multi-stakeholder and people-centred approache in order to tackle the challenges of an energy transition. Specifically, the initiative is intended to support the generation of an additional 10 GW of renewable energy in Africa by 2020 and as much as 300 GW by 2030. The latter figure would amount to a doubling of the total existing power generation capacity on the continent. The primary aim of AREI is not to establish a new fund, but rather to improve the coordination of various financial flows. It is divided into two phases:

  • Phase I (2016-2020), in cooperation with bilateral and global partners, AREI will focus on studies, preparatory and pilot measures. A total of at least 10 GW of new and additional power generation capacity is to be supported.
  • In Phase II (2020-2030), measures, programs and political incentives are to be financed on a large scale, including within the framework of NAMAs (nationally determined mitigation actions). These are to be founded on Phase 1 and create a total of 300 GW of additional capacity.

Key areas of work include the mapping of policy measures, legal frameworks, experience and programs, the strengthening of political, legal and support structures, the mobilization of financial incentives and investments and project development. Additional interdisciplinary topics include socio-economic and environmental assessments of renewable energies, multi-stakeholder engagement, broader monitoring and review of contexts, as well as communication and public relations.

Key developments

The initiative was presented by the African Union at the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau in 2015, where it received the support of the G7 countries, and officially launched at the Paris climate conference (COP 21). It enjoyed strong support from some African decision makers, civil society and donor countries for three reasons:

  1. The initiative’s founding documents take a systemic perspective: Its objective is not a series of individual projects, but the transformation of the continent’s energy systems.
  2. The initiative was developed by Africans and is being supported and managed by African institutions such as the African Union Commission.
  3. AREI is pursuing ambitious goals that combine development and climate protection and are designed to give all Africans access to clean, modern energy in the medium term.

Since its inception, however, AREI has been primarily concerned with clarifying issues related to the structure and operation of the initiative. These included conflicts in the Board of Directors pertaining to voting rights of donors and the African Development Bank as well as changes in the composition of the Independent Delivery Unit (IDU). The Board of Directors now has seven voting members (five African heads of state or government and two African institutions – the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank). France and the European Commission are on the Board of Directors as observing members. Civil society organizations have been campaigning for greater opportunities for participation and transparency in AREI in order to effectively support its development and the start of implementation.

With the change of IDU leadership in 2018, the problems have escalated, leading observers to speak of a failure of the initiative. The major problems were the ambivalent role of the AfDB and individual countries in the Board, inappropriate donor influence by France and the EU, the inclusion of projects that did not meet the AREI criteria, the complete exclusion of civil society, and non-transparent processes.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) call for an external audit with active civil society participation to initiate a learning process from the mistakes. In addition, the vision and frameworks should be taken up by other African initiatives and actively promoted.

Funding volume and Germany’s contribution

The initiative is to be supported by various sources such as a dedicated AREI trust fund, multilateral funds from development banks and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), as well as bilateral cooperation.

AREI has received funding committments of around $1,7 billion for the initiative itself as well as donor committments of $11,5 billion dollars for projects. With €1.2 billion in 2016, Germany was the largest bilateral donor in the group consisting of the G7, the European Commission, France, Sweden and the Netherlands, which together made more than $4.3 billion in new pledges for renewable energy, power transmission and energy efficiency in Africa. However, Germany planned to make this contribution through ongoing climate finance projects in the field of renewable energies. Following the ongoing difficulties of AREI, Germany terminated its funding 2020 after the first phase and did not continue its funding for the second phase of AREI. (as of August 2021)

 

 

 

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