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MEDIA SUMMARY: Energized: Policy innovation to power the transformation of Africa’s agriculture and food system

A Malabo Montpellier Panel Report


A new report by the Malabo Montpellier Panel highlights the promising energy-related strategies, policies and technologies emerging across Africa's agricultural value chain. The report identifies both successes and challenges in improving the rural poor’s access to energy as part of a broader agriculture sector transformation. Drawing on the government actions of six African countries that were identified as leaders within this space, it also makes recommendations for policy and program interventions that can be replicated across the continent to accelerate this progress.

 Access to energy can have a transformative impact on the livelihoods of the rural poor, reducing the drudgery of their work and generating higher incomes. Women, in particular, would spend less time collecting fuel for cooking and heating, benefitting from less pollution in their homes. It is, therefore, promising to see several African countries taking bold steps to better connect rural areas and food systems to energy sources, and already benefitting from the sustainable supply and use of traditional and renewable energy sources in the agriculture sector.

 Country analyses

The report provides in-depth analyses of six African countries, which were identified as the continent’s best performing in terms of how their policies and regulations relate to the sustainable, efficient use of energy. Three indicators were used in this indexing process: night-time lights, the agricultural value-added per worker growth rate, and the Regulatory Indicator for Sustainable Energy (RISE). 

Their score reflects a commitment towards increasing the sustainable use of energy through relevant policies and regulations:  

·        Ethiopia – Placing electrification at the core of its transformation strategy, electricity access in Ethiopia doubled between 2010 and 2016, largely through an expansion in electricity generation from renewables.
·         Ghana – With a strong emphasis on facilitating private sector engagement through regulation, as well as expanding local research and technical capabilities, Ghana’s universal energy access interventions placed particular focus on rural areas and the agricultural processing sector.

·         Morocco – Creating a private sector market to increase the use of renewables and achieve greater energy efficiency was central to Morocco’s policy design and implementation, with fiscal incentives introduced to encourage wide-scale adoption of renewable energies.

·         Senegal – Since liberalizing its energy sector to incentivize independent power producers (IPPs), Senegal has achieved its electrification targets and shifted its priorities towards expanding electricity access to 60 per cent of rural areas by 2022.

·         South Africa – Bridging the energy gap for poor and rural communities was key to South Africa’s agenda, with an early uptake of off-grid solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and decentralized, cost-effective electricity provisions facilitating access in remote areas.

·         Zambia – Employing a cluster-based approach and offering fiscal incentives to diversify and strengthen supply are notable components of Zambia’s energy strategy, with reduced import duties, smart subsidies, low-interest loans and waivers helping make agricultural power supplies more affordable.

Key facts

·         Sub-Saharan Africa’s electrification rate of 45 per cent is very low compared to other regions in the world. The average electrification rate in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa in 2017 was just 23 per cent, severely constraining the development of rural economies

·         Africa accounts for just six per cent of the world’s energy demand, despite hosting 20 per cent of the global population. The 2019 Africa Energy Outlook predicts that African energy demand will grow twice as fast as the global average over the next two decades.

·         Africa is the highest consumer of traditional solid biomass, such as fuelwood, charcoal and farm residues in the world.

·         Overall, cooking accounts for more 70 per cent of household energy usage in Africa, compared with less than 10 per cent globally.

·         On average, human manual labor accounts for 80 per cent of the energy used to prepare land for agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.

·         Investments will have to increase by almost 400 per cent, to US$120 billion per year, in order to achieve universal energy access in Africa by 2040.

·         In some countries, like Burundi, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe, more than half of connected households reported receiving electricity less than half of the time in 2014.

·         It is estimated that by 2063, renewable energies, including wind, solar, hydro, bio, tidal and geothermal energies, will represent more than half of the energy consumed by African households and businesses.


Relevant case studies

A selection of the digital tools, applications and services highlighted in the report include:

·         The Smart Solar Irrigation Project, which launched three smart solar PV irrigation pumping systems in Senegal in 2014, providing farmers with the ability to control how much energy they use through a pre-paid credit card.

The SEWA Charcoal Cookstove in Mali, which has benefitted around 1.6 million people by reducing household consumption of traditional biomass, consequently lowering household spending on fuel by 25 per cent.
The initiative, Beyond the Grid, that focuses on unlocking investment for off-grid and small-scale energy solutions in Africa by partnering with investors and practitioners. 
·         A low-cost ventilated gas dryer, developed by Winrock International, which allows farmers in Cameroon to dry their crops, with more efficient energy consumption and production.

·         SunDanzer’s small-scale portable cooling system, that uses solar energy to significantly decrease milk spoilage, has improved the livelihoods of one million farmers in Kenya.

·         Diesel-powered, multifunctional machines in Mali, which have benefitted thousands of women by significantly reducing the time collecting fuel. 


The Malabo Montpellier Panel makes five recommendations:

 Designing integrated approaches to energy strategies and policies for agriculture, to ensure that energy access targets benefit rural areas and are consistent with the overall development strategies adopted by African countries.
Scaling investments in off-grid and mini-grid solutions which have a positive, disruptive impact on African energy landscapes and enable Africa’s consumers to leapfrog outdated technologies.
Adopting gender-responsive energy strategies that involve women in the design and implementation stages, to ensure new technologies and tools fulfil their needs and benefit their families, rural communities and the broader economy.
Addressing the multiple challenges of biomass-based energy use to ensure that it is produced more sustainably, with more emphasis placed on designing indoor cooking stoves to be more environmentally friendly.
Developing cross-border policies for energy security that reduce the unequal distribution of energy resources across Africa and govern both the development and use of renewable energy sources.




About the Malabo Montpellier Panel

The Malabo Montpellier Panel convenes 17 leading African and international experts in agriculture, ecology, nutrition and food security to facilitate policy choices by African governments to accelerate progress towards food security and improved nutrition in Africa. The Panel identifies areas of progress and positive change across the continent and assesses what successful countries have done differently. It then identifies the most important institutional innovations and policy and program interventions that can be replicated and scaled up by other countries.


The Malabo Montpellier Panel is the successor to the Montpellier Panel, created in 2010, it puts greater emphasis on African initiatives, such as the Malabo Declaration's expanded Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). It is hosted by the West and Central Africa Office of the International Food Policy Research Institute, the University of Bonn and Imperial College London and is headquartered in Dakar Senegal.  It is co-chaired by Dr. Ousmane Badiane, Africa Director at IFPRI and Professor Joachim von Braun, Director, Center for Development Research, University of Bonn.