New EU aid plan for Africa includes energy, water

The European Commission has unveiled a plan to spend more than 5 billion euros (US$6.3 billion) to boost regional infrastructure in Africa, targeting cross-border roads, energy, water, and information technology networks for improvements.

Forty-two percent of Africa’s population has no access to safe water and less than 20 percent has access to electricity, the commission said July 13 in a paper outlining the plan.

“If we do not rebuild a backbone of infrastructure for Africa, none of the other priorities will be feasible,” the European Union (EU) aid commissioner, Louis Michel, told reporters.

The European Commission wants member states to agree to allocate 5.6 billion euros from the bloc’s 2008-2013 development fund to these projects and add their own contributions.

It said some projects could start earlier with a trust fund for infrastructure for Africa it is setting up with the European Investment Bank, the EU’s soft loans arm. The Commission will transfer 60 million euros (US$75.2 million) to that fund to top up the bank’s 260 million euros (US$326 million) contribution. It still needs to convince EU states to contribute to it.

Cooperation called for on river basins, power grids

The paper said Africa has abundant energy potential, but its resources are used inefficiently. Most fossil fuel is exported, while renewables are barely used, with only 7 percent of African hydropower potential converted to electricity.

The paper said there is urgent need to integrate regional energy systems, with some steps already under way in transmission and generation.

“Some cross-border schemes already exist, for example, the Kariba South power station between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the Ruzizi hydroelectric station between Burundi, the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), and Rwanda,” the paper said. “Other hydropower generating facilities have bilateral agreements that play a key role in cross-border trade in electricity.”

Additionally, water resources are unevenly distributed and divided among 60 international basins, most of which lack cooperation agreements necessary for sustainable management, the paper said. It said there is a need for riparian states to cooperate in the use of shared rivers.

“This involves (i) preparing water resources management plans that address the needs of all users and respect the needs of the environment, and (ii) developing the infrastructure (dams, irrigation systems, water supplies, hydroelectric power) that is needed to reduce vulnerability to droughts to manage floods better, to ensure more water, more food, and more electricity in a way that takes account of the needs of the river system itself,” the paper said.

“This means laying a strong foundation for cooperative action and for future investment projects to follow the decision-making framework of the World Commission on Dams Report of 2000.”

The EU paper can be obtained from the Internet at

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