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Sustainable Energy Forum Kicks Off in Rwandan Capital

FILE - Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks during Armed Forces Day celebrations in Pemba, Mozambique, September 25, 2021.

Over 1,000 government officials and energy experts from around the world are in Rwanda to consider how to improve the lives of more than a half-billion Africans who don’t have access to electricity.

The three-day Sustainable Energy for All Forum, which works in partnership with the United Nations and world leaders, began Tuesday in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

In his opening remarks, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the state of energy poverty in Africa and that sound policies are needed to foster renewable energy and industrialization.

“First, expanding the use of off-grid technologies and standalone systems can help bring power to rural communities in Africa more quickly. Second, going forward we need to integrate industrial policy with sustainable energy policy. We need to plan now, to be able to power Africa’s future industries sustainably, but without slowing down our development,” Kagame said.

Speaking virtually, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged participants to act now to improve energy access and address poverty.

“Closing the energy access gap and ending energy poverty is crucial to delivering on the 2030 agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals," said Guterres. "It is also fundamental to tackling the climate change crisis.”

Damilola Ogunbiyi, the CEO of the forum, said that improving access to electricity is key to development and transforming the lives of people living in rural areas.

“We must bring electricity and clean cooking to billions of people so they can have access to the same economic and social opportunities as those who already have an abundant energy supply,” Ogunbiyi said.

The U.N. estimates the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed more than 55 million Africans into extreme poverty, reversing decades of progress and stalling efforts to invest in sustainable energy.