First High-Level Biofuels Seminar in Africa

30 July-1 August 2007 | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

IISD's Summary



Saturday, 4 August 2007
Brazilian Government
African Union
Web coverage:
Monday, 30 July - Tuesday, 31 July - Wednesday, 1 August

Highlights from Monday, 30 July 2007

The first High-level Biofuels Seminar in Africa opened at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa , Ethiopia , on Monday, 30 July 2007 . The seminar, held under the theme of “Sustainable Biofuels Development in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges,” is jointly organized by the African Union Commission (AUC), the Government of Brazil and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). It is expected to bring together some 200 participants representing AU member states, regional economic communities, UN agencies, the scientific community and the private sector.

The major objectives of the seminar are to: brief policy makers, the private sector and regional institutions on the development of biofuels and their importance for Africa; explore possibilities for biofuel development in Africa while ensuring a balance between their potential, risks and trade-offs; bring together stakeholders in the biofuels sector to develop a common strategic plan for this new energy source on the continent; and facilitate the development of viable policies and strategies for the biofuels industry in Africa.

Opening Ceremony
Kandeh Yumkella, Director-General, UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, Minister of Energy and Mines, Ethiopia, and Bernard Zoba, AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy

Aboubakari Baba-Moussa, Director, Infrastructure and Energy, AU (left), welcomed participants to Addis Ababa, and reported on preparatory meetings for the seminar that were held under the auspices of the AUC and that had resulted in the establishment of three subcommittees comprised of members of the AU, Brazil and UNIDO, . Robert Okello, NEPAD and ECA (right), noted the unprecedented interest in biofuels in developed and developing countries alike. He identified the key driving forces for such renewed interest, including: high and volatile oil prices; opportunities for job creation in rural areas and revitalization of the agricultural sector; the availability of new and more efficient biomass; and the need to address the global environmental challenges of air pollution and climate change.


Guiherme Cassel, Brazilian Minister of Agrarian Development (left), said that the Brazilian experience in biofuels has direct relevance to the seminar's theme of opportunities and challenges for biofuel development in Africa. He noted that biofuels can help achieve the needs of energy security, lead to agricultural development, increase employment opportunities, protect the environment and help fight air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Maria Michela Morese, Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) (right), on behalf of GBEP Chair Corrado Clini: noted the opportunity of harnessing Africa's vast biomass resources and the continent's challenge of moving away from traditional to modern bioenergy; stressed that sustainability should be the key element of biofuels development; and called for global standards in the field, including full lifecycle analysis, labeling and certification.

Kandeh Yumkella, Director-General, UNIDO, said that many crops growing in African villages are being used by some countries as energy fuels, and stressed the need for adding value to African commodities in international markets. Highlighting the importance of sustainability in biofuel development, he noted the need to create a better policy climate and to develop both first- and second-generation biofuel technologies. He highlighted UNIDO's initiatives on biofuels, including development of an inter-regional expert network, and underscored that the global fight against poverty needs to address the “energy poverty” question.

Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, Minister of Energy and Mines, Ethiopia (left), underscored the critical importance of reducing energy import costs, suggesting that renewable energy, especially biofuels, can make a substantial contribution to national development. He elaborated on Ethiopia's potential and efforts in the field of biofuel development, especially relating to jatropha and sugar cane, including its recent biofuels development strategy. He noted the importance of considering the environmental impacts of biofuels, and underscored the need for foreign investment and to create commercial opportunities for farmers in the biofuels sector.


Bernard Zoba, AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, welcomed participants, noting that the seminar was a concrete outcome of the political will expressed at the first Africa-South America Summit to promote South-South partnerships for biofuels development, along with the decision taken at the eighth AU Summit to develop a new renewable energy policy and strategy for Africa. He stressed that Africa should not become a mere consumer of biofuels and a producer of raw materials, but should take full advantage of available technologies and the experiences of leading biofuel-producing countries.

Procedural matters
Aboubakari Baba-Moussa, African Union, reviewed and delegates adopted the agenda and work programme
Session 1: Seminar overview and objectives

Outlining global energy trends, Heinz Leuenberger, UNIDO, noted that: around half of Africa's energy is derived from traditional biomass; only one in four Africans currently has regular access to electricity; the future increase in electricity demand will be greatest in developing countries; and global energy consumption is expected to triple by 2050 if the Millenium Development Goals are achieved. Regarding the export potential of biofuels, he noted the EU's target of achieving, by 2020, a 10% share of biofuels used in transport and constraints for growing biofuels in Europe. He stressed the importance of further prioritizing designing and implementing regional action plans on biofuels within a sustainable development framework and with an initial focus on self-sufficiency.


Philippe Niyongabo, AU (left), provided an overview of biofuel development in Africa. He highlighted opportunities presented by Africa's vast land area available for food and energy crops, favorable climate and cheap labor force, while noting environmental and socioeconomic concerns. Stressing that biofuels can help achieve the MDGs and address climate change, he said the proposed vision for biofuels in Africa is focuses on improving rural economies through integrated bioenergy development. Njeri Wamukonya, UNEP (right), noted that biofuels are a growing market with a huge potential in Africa. She highlighted a number of risks of biofuel development such as its implications for food security and water scarcity. She outlined initiatives of UNEP and other partners to formulate guidelines for biofuel development that focus on both producers and consumers, and that use certification as a key tool. She noted that UNEP is ready to develop criteria and standards for biofuel development in Africa that accommodate environmental and social concerns.

Session 2: Country and subregional experiences

Stephen Karekezi, Energy, Environment and Development Network for Africa, presented an overview of national and regional perspectives and experiences with biofuels. He identified three main clusters in the African energy sector: hydrocarbons in North Africa; biomass across most of the continent; and coal in South Africa. Urging a transition from traditional biomass energy technology, he highlighted opportunities presented by biofuels for: enhanced energy security and diversification; higher convertible currency revenue; a new revenue stream for agro-industries and farmers; carbon finance; job creation; and meeting local rural energy needs.


For Central Africa, Demba Diop, Environmental Market and Product Consulting (left), noted that despite the presence of oil in the subregion, the population's access to energy remains a challenge, while poverty and hunger are still widespread. Regarding prospects for biofuel development, he noted some countries' high dependence on oil exports, an ongoing decline in oil production and a projected depletion of subregional oil reserves by 2050. Comparing oil and biofuel exports from Africa, he said more than 60% of the value added associated with biofuels would remain in producer countries, contrasted with an estimated 80% of oil-related value added going abroad. For West Africa, Essel Ben Hagan, Institute of Industrial Research, Ghana (center), noted that the main biofuel technologies in West Africa are biomass gasification, biogas, bioethanol and biodiesel. He said that the key barriers to biofuels include the reluctance of financial institutions to advance loans for biofuel development. Also for West Africa, Ibrahim Togola, Mali Folkecenter (right), provided an overview of biofuel development, particularly jatropha, in Mali. He noted that the institute is a partnership between governments, the private sector and NGOs and its main achievements include developing a local jatropha press, initiating jatropha in the transport sector and creating rural energy service centers.


Opening of Exhibition

Delegates toured the exhibition, and were given introductions to the various technologies and work being done on biofuels in Africa

Kandeh Yumkella, UNIDO, visits the Mali Folkecenter exhibition
Delegates visit the exhibition of the Ethiopian Rural Energy Development and Promotion Center (EREDPC)
Gaia Ethanol Stove exhibition (left) and Selam Technical and Vocational College (right)
Miscellaneous Photos
Group photo of heads of delegations
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