Executive Director to join group of eminent figures advising on EU-Africa relations

Initiative provides recommendations to support the deepening partnership between the European Union and Africa.

Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director, will join the High-Level Group of Personalities on EU-Africa relations, an initiative through which international political and thought leaders provide policy recommendations to support the deepening partnership between the European Union and Africa.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for health systems, economies and societies, with developing countries across Africa among the most vulnerable. Now more than ever, the world needs forward-looking endeavours that can help build a brighter future,” Dr Birol said. “I’m delighted and honoured by the invitation to join this distinguished group of people whom I believe can make a real difference to this critical intercontinental relationship and to sustainable economic development.”

The group brings together 18 eminent figures, spanning former presidents and prime ministers, leading experts and current and former heads of international organisations. They include Arancha Gonzalez, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Laureate and former President of Liberia; Mo Ibrahim, Chair and Founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the World Trade Organization; Etienne Davignon, Belgian statesman and first head of the IEA; and Hailemariam Desalegn, former Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

The high-level initiative – which is backed by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the ONE Campaign and Friends of Europe – seeks to help modernise the important EU-Africa partnership in order to equip it to meet new challenges.

“The IEA has worked for decades on Africa, notably on strategies to expand access to vital energy services,” Dr Birol said. “Today, we are more committed than ever to enable Africa to accelerate access to affordable, reliable and cleaner energy and to build more prosperous and resilient economies. Overcoming the immense challenges brought about by the Covid-19 crisis will require much greater international efforts and ground-breaking collective initiatives.”

The World Bank forecast earlier this month that Sub-Saharan Africa will in 2020 experience its first recession in 25 years, with the region’s economy contracting between 2.1% and 5.1% as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

The IEA’s recent Africa Energy Outlook 2019 shows how the energy sector can help Africa realise its growth ambitions while also delivering key sustainable development goals by 2030, including full access to electricity and clean cooking facilities. But doing so will require greater policy action. Today, one in two Africans live without access to electricity and most health facilities do not have access to electricity.

“The IEA will be working hard to provide data, analysis and policy recommendations as input to the African Union-European Union Summit that takes place on 28-29 October. We want to ensure decisive actions are taken to bring greater prosperity and more sustainable development for Africa,” added Dr Birol.

The IEA has been strengthening its relationships with African energy decision-makers in recent years. South Africa and Morocco are part of the IEA family as Association countries. In June 2019, the IEA and the African Union Commission co-hosted their first joint ministerial summit at which the two organisations built on the cooperation stemming from a memorandum of understanding signed in 2018. A second ministerial forum will be held in 2020, with South Africa offering to host the event in line with its 2020 presidency of the African Union. Plans are already underway for IEA teams to work on capacity building with policy makers in countries such as Senegal, Ethiopia and Benin. The Agency also intends to hold a meeting in Morocco, when conditions allow, on clean energy transitions in North Africa.

The High-Level Group of Personalities on EU-Africa relations will next meet on 1 July 2020. Other members of the group include Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana; Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former President of Mozambique; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and former Minister of Finance of Nigeria; and Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

The high-level group will work together to identify priorities and next steps that Africa and Europe must take to enhance core policy areas, including development cooperation, trade, investments, entrepreneurship, digital development, migration flows, security and climate change.