Delegates from 37 African nations endorsed a declaration and action plan March 9, urging African governments to pursue financing and public-private development of hydropower to reduce poverty and enhance energy and water security.
Twenty-eight energy and water ministers were among participants in the first African Ministerial Conference on Hydropower and Sustainable Development, March 8-9 in Johannesburg. Also participating were international organizations and representatives of business, industry, and non-governmental organizations.
Building on the groundwork of previous international gatherings such as the 2004 United Nations hydropower symposium in Beijing, the African delegates issued a declaration “recognizing the role that hydropower schemes of all sizes can play” in meeting U.N. Millennium Development Goals and contributing to social and economic development.
The “of all sizes” language is considered a victory for hydropower in the face of environmental groups who argue that large hydro developments should not be encouraged.
Ministers emphasize hydro funding mechanisms
The declaration emphasized that hydropower projects are capital intensive and require tangible action to finance sustainable projects in Africa. It also acknowledged the importance of the public sector in leading hydro development and in attracting investment from public and private sources. It also called on international financing agencies to help African nations promote innovative funding mechanisms for hydro development.
The action plan adopted by the conference directed the African Energy Commission to provide secretariat services for the African Hydro Symposium in collaboration with the International Hydropower Association. IHA was instrumental in development of the conference.
Ministers also asked the African Union and other regional and international institutions to help countries prepare feasibility studies of key hydropower projects promoted as regional sources of electricity by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The request cited as an example the giant Inga hydroelectric complex proposed on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The NEPAD secretariat was urged to speed up establishment of centers of excellence in water, science, technology, and renewable energy. African governments also were urged to streamline legal and regulatory frameworks to support hydro development.
The ministers also urged participating groups to report the conference’s recommendations to the Fourth World Water Forum, March 16-22 in Mexico City, and to the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development, meeting May 1-12 in New York.