Press Release

Nov. 8, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AFRICAN SCIENCE ACADEMY DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON IMPROVING ACCESS TO ENERGY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

SOMERSET WEST, South Africa - The sixth annual conference of the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI) began today, bringing together officials from national science academies and policymakers from many African nations, as well as experts in energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, the theme of the meeting. The conference is being hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa.

"Hosting the African Science Academy Development Initiative conference in South Africa provides us with the unique opportunity to highlight the impact of academies in providing policy advice on a continental scale," said Robin Crewe, president of the Academy of Science of South Africa. "Creating awareness of this role, particularly as it pertains to improving energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, is the primary purpose of the conference."

The conference kicked off with the release of a new report, Turning Science On: Improving Access to Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa, setting the stage for the next two days of expert presentations and discussions. The report calls for energy access to be added to the list of United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Achievement of the goals is impossible without wider provision of modern energy services, it says.

The report presents an overview of the current state of energy access in sub-Saharan Africa; almost 600 million people in the region -- about 70 percent of the population -- lack access to electricity, while even more rely on traditional biomass fuels for cooking. The total installed power capacity for all of sub-Saharan Africa is about equal to that of Spain.

Investments by the private sector, government reform of state-owned utilities, and the unlocking of regulatory barriers are all needed to improve energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, the report concludes. It also says that achieving universal access to electricity will require both an extension of national grids and the installation of mini-grids and off-grid isolated systems. In addition, until safer fuels or other sources of energy can be provided for cooking, improved stoves must be promoted to minimize exposure to indoor air pollution from the burning of traditional biomass fuels.

The science academies officials, representatives of ministries and parliaments, and other energy experts at the conference will focus not just on how to provide energy to more people in sub-Saharan Africa but also on how to provide energy that is clean and affordable. They will also explore how African science academies can inform policy in this area.

ASADI is a multiyear, collaborative effort among the U.S. Institute of Medicine and U.S. National Research Council, which is the operating arm of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and the national science academies of Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda, as well as the regional African Academy of Sciences. The goal of the initiative, which is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is to strengthen the capacity of the African science academies to provide evidence-based advice to better inform policymaking and public discourse. Turning Science On was prepared by the Academy of Science of South Africa in consultation with the national science academies participating in ASADI, and those of Mauritius, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

For more information on ASADI, including a conference agenda and video message by the presidents of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and U.S. Institute of Medicine, visit http://national-academies.org/asadi/.

Contacts:

William Kearney, Director of Media Relations
U.S. National Academy of Sciences
+1 202 334 2138/+1 202 450 9166 (mobile) or e-mail wkearney@nas.edu

Patsy Scholtz, Communication Manager
Academy of Science of South Africa
+27 12 349 6618/+27 82 550 0757 (mobile) or e-mail patsy@assaf.org.za



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