African Geopolitics — You have announced the creation of a foundation for energy development in Africa. What is your speciﬁc goal?
Jean-Louis Borloo — Africa is at a crossroads. Its demographic transition and economic expansion are having an impact on all its neighbours. In this context, Europe’s blindness in relation to Africa’s current energy situation seems particularly astonishing given that we are living in a world where energy is vital. It rules everything! Light attracts and engenders growth and revenues.
African Geopolitics — You have announced the creation of a foundation for energy development in Africa. What is your speciﬁc goal?
Jean-Louis Borloo — Africa is at a crossroads. Its demographic transition and economic expansion are having an impact on all its neighbours. In this context, Europe’s blindness in relation to Africa’s current energy situation seems particularly astonishing given that we are living in a world where energy is vital. It rules everything! Light attracts and engenders growth and revenues. It seems utter folly not to recognise, in a world of nomadism, that Africa is being destabilised by migratory ﬂows. When you are in the dark and in poverty, you are drawn to light and wealth – even though they may be illusory. This leads to the loss of baseline values, the rise of religious radicalism and a critical situation in the peripheries of major African cities — which is a tragedy not just for the African continent but also for Europe and even beyond. Believing that Europe and Africa are two separate continents to my mind smacks of a 19th century view that has no place in the 21st century. After all, the two are separated by nothing more than the ‘little lake’ of the Mediterranean.
A.G. — You just mentioned that only a few kilometres separate Africa from Europe — the Strait of Gibraltar …
J.-L. B. — Exactly fourteen kilometres. What is going to happen in a continent of a billion inhabitants — who will number two billion in a few decades — where, each year, there are an additional ten million little people without access to light? They will go and seek that light elsewhere … And that Europe should be the only part of the world to have no African strategy leaves me dumbstruck. Succumbing to intellectual laziness is a crazy risk to run…
You would also have to be blind to fail to understand Europe and Africa can become the new ‘global giant’. And what is the basis for this? Energy! It is not the only factor, of course, but it is the greatest priority. Energy continues to be the driving force of modern agriculture, education, health, growth and local and regional stabilisation. A very interesting study makes a connection between life expectancy and energy — the greater the access to energy, the longer the life expectancy. Our only option is to satisfy Africa’s energy needs fully within the next ten years. What could be more exciting than the construction of this ‘new world giant’, Africa, where population density is ﬁfteen times lower than that of Europe? Africa, with its great rivers, extraordinary demography and formidable youth, enormous resources and an economic model which still has room for manoeuvre, and will be the ﬁrst sustainable economic space in the history of humanity…
A.G. — What are its needs?
J.-L. B. — Three quarters of Africa’s peoples, excluding Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, do not have access to energy. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that energy is the ‘child’ of the Nation-States and of powerful governments: energy has never been ﬁnanced by the market but by the public sector, as in the case of railways. However, young States often still have weak administrative structures, precarious State ﬁnance systems and a low population density. Consequently, distribution costs are higher than in more densely populated areas and electrical installations remain marginal and scattered. This only aggravates the problem and threatens to destabilise the continent even more quickly.
Consequently a programme is needed. Once stakeholders have been identiﬁed, the parties who want to build a prosperous Africa and ensure its growth — and among foreign actors, principally Europe — a strategic timetable must be established and mechanisms of ﬁnancing deﬁned, enabling this big continent-wide electriﬁcation project to get under way.
A.G. — What are the ﬁnancing requirements?
J.-L. B. — They are estimated at 50 billion euros of public funds in the form of aid — a paltry amount to equip an entire continent and ensure its growth. We are talking about 5 billion euros a year over 10 years or 2.5 billion euros a year over 20 years, and in addition, 150 billion in private investments, bringing it to a total of 200 billion euros. Just as a comparison, Germany annually spends 45 billion euros on ﬁnancing renewable energies in the country. My initiative consists of mobilising everyone — business, foundations, European agencies, European governments and African governments, etc. – to sign a major protocol to implement this project.
A.G. — When can it become operational?
J.-L. B. — My idea is to try to have a global protocol for implementation in 2015. The current multilateralism is not adequate for concrete and urgent operational activity. By its very nature it is haphazard and unreliable. For example, the Green Climate Fund •1 was decided upon six years ago with an initial budget (Fast Start Funding) and a plan to put together 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. But so far it has proved impossible to achieve this objective. If such a project is to work, State funds must do the job of Fast Start Funding, as is the case in all the world’s economies where the electrical energy sector has been developed, so that no one can seek special treatment. In France, the State was responsible for ﬁnancing electriﬁcation through a State guarantee fund, because it costs more to connect a lightbulb in Auvergne to the network than one in Paris Montparnasse. It is very clear that the principle of equal standards must be implemented in this regard.
First, I want the banking and ﬁnancial establishments and the European governments to sign a development plan for decentralised rural energy with each of the African countries. In terms of costs, this is 1,000 dollars for each connected home: half of it is payable when completed and the other half must be provided by public funding. This programme can be ﬁnanced by a basket of diverse credits: public and private ﬁnancing and especially by the participation of the electricity companies, as well as — I am a ﬁrm believer in this — African funds.
In my opinion, what is at stake here is not to effect some minor improvement to the existing system, but to create a new energy system since, as things stand, electrical power installation has not kept pace with the population increase. We need to break the vicious cycle between growth — which exists, but is still insufﬁcient — and the increase in poverty which is gaining speed in some places, including a large portion of Africa. The situation is no longer tenable.
A.G. — No large-scale initiative exists in Europe, but why not piggyback on the global initiative of the “Energy for Africa”, plan, ﬁnanced partly by the United States, partly by Sweden and by the World Bank?
J.-L. B. – This is not an initiative but the promotion of a simple idea, which primarily concerns Africans. It requires a specialised agency, exclusively devoted to an electriﬁcation plan, managed and steered by Africans, to provide urgent funding for African projects in the service of the States and the regional organisations. Other initiatives will also be involved, of course.
A.G. — How do you view your personal activity at the head of this initiative?
J.-L. B. — I am a creator, a mobiliser and I bring things together. If I can ﬁnd a better boss than myself, I will follow him. And naturally, I personally do not stand to gain in the matter. I am sincere and I want to inspire conﬁdence. The ideas I am putting forward are quite simple. I want to mobilise the decision-makers, public opinion and the media.
A.G. — Is the fact that the electriﬁcation of Africa may boost the growth of Europe, an argument that will rally the support of the European stakeholders?
J.-L. B. — Obviously! The rise from an electriﬁcation rate of 25% to 100 % in Africa will have an enormous impact on growth. No need to be a great economist to understand that! And this growth will in turn have an impact on Africa’s neighbour, Europe. This phenomenon of ‘elasticity between two homogenous economic blocs’ is well-known and is a dynamic on which the Foundation for Study and Research on International Development (FERDI) at Clermont-Ferrand focuses; it is using the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) network to model the impact of the variable of energy on the variable of growth. African economists are also working on this topic.
In addition, the impact on European growth will come not only from equipment contracts but also from its share in the global energy market on the African continent. Africa’s electriﬁcation is both a necessity and an opportunity to ﬁnance one of our own markets.
A.G. — What concrete projects do you envisage in the framework of your initiative?
J.-L. B. — The ﬁrst concrete project is to launch a process for automatic, predictable, permanent ﬁnancing which will be managed by Africa – under modalities which have still to be determined.
Second, it may, for example, relate to the interconnection project between the electricity networks of Mauritania and Senegal. As I see it, it is up to the governments and power companies of the countries concerned to deﬁne the concrete projects. It is their responsibility to manage the administrative issues and to ﬁnance training. I am neither a manager operator nor a donor, but simply a facilitator who is ‘shaking up the situation’ so that this programme can operate automatically and can be taken over by the stakeholder.
As I see it, what is required is a systemic response. By and large, Europe will have to ﬁnance the public portion, because it is in its interest to ensure stability and prosperity on the African continent. Furthermore, economic growth can generate, decades later, a signiﬁcant return on investment for whoever has ﬁnanced it.
A.G. — What do you regard as the opportunities and obstacles to the development of energy in Africa?
J.-L. B. — The potential lies in the fact that it is a continent in the middle of a population explosion. Men, women and children need to have access to universal energy, access to water, access to health and education. There is also agricultural and industrial potential. We must not think solely in terms of economic interest, but also in terms of social impact: we are facing a humanitarian problem which must be resolved in the interests of humanity as a whole.
In addition, at the level of pure production, there is the issue of developing renewable energies which are virtually the cheapest in the world, whether it is hydropower from the River Congo, or geothermal and solar power.
Of course, there is a disadvantage: the rather high cost of distribution, owing to Africa’s low population density which is 15 times lower than that of Europe. As long as the cost of electricity outside the urban centres remains higher, the challenge will focus on a continent of ‘decentralised energy’, which is a ﬁrst for humanity. Energy strategies must consequently form part of the context of a sustainable economy. There is a need to develop local energy projects and create a genuine technological revolution in this sphere to ensure low cost and extremely robust and reliable production.
Some of the challenges and obstacles include establishing appropriate administrative and regulatory structures, providing training and maintenance in a very decentralised framework and adapting electricity tariffs to real income levels, with the implementation of a system of state subsidies, if necessary.
A.G. — In what way can the Grenelle Environment Forum serve as a model for ecological policies in Africa?
J.-L. B. — The Grenelle Environment Forum was a process that consisted of bringing together the stakeholders concerned, i.e. the government, elected representatives, trade unions, employers, and local communities, in order to determine which elements of shared objectives were already agreed and which might attract convergent attitudes. It is a consensus which in the long term goes beyond political positions, attitudes and divisions, changeovers of power, individuals doing certain jobs at a given moment, and which makes it possible to tackle the technical issues in a serious way, moving towards more in- depth work and making considerable advances.
This type of mechanism may prove useful in Africa in designing and adopting major national strategies, while being aware much patience is needed with a kind of ‘engineering’ and ‘technical’ skill of discussion and a genuine mastery of technical, administrative and ﬁnancial issues.
A.G. — What link do you see between energy policies and the environment?
J.-L. B. — There is a total connection: the topics of energy, climate, biodiversity and deforestation are inextricably linked. For example, in the case of Africa, we have more or less the total disappearance of Lake Chad and rapid deforestation on a massive scale from the need for fuel. Deforestation also means the loss of biodiversity and decreased carbon capture, since the forest is, along with the ocean, nature’s main defens against CO2.
A.G. — Do you subscribe to the criticisms of the alarmist scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ?
J.-L. B. — I regard this as a debate without merit. The ‘Pascalian wager’ is this: either the IPCC is right and we need to speed up the ﬁght against the causes of global warming, or it is not completely right, and we need to do it anyway. In any case, I take no risk in afﬁrming one or the other because in the long term, it improves economic efﬁciency. It is impossible to explain why not sending several tons of CO2 into the atmosphere is better than the reverse.
It needs to be understood that those critical reports are ﬁnanced by the oil industry. But it is true that in any work of this kind, mistakes of analysis and data collection are still possible. For my own part, I am not prepared to bet on the IPCC being wrong and the situation improving. In addition, having lower-carbon economies falls more into the category of progress than of absurdity.
Jean Louis Borloo
3 bonnes raisons de s'abonner
Share this page with your friends. spread the word
Informez vos ami(e)s automatiquement sur un article ou sur une publication.