The need for universal access to clean energy was one of the key messages to emerge from the climate change talks held in Copenhagen in December 2009. It was argued by the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang, that climate change policies will only work if clean energy technology transfer is extended rapidly to developing countries and particularly to poor communities.
Access to energy, including electricity and heating and cooking fuel, is central to a country’s development. Energy is fundamental to poverty reduction and economic transformation. The availability and use of energy will greatly influence how and whether African countries are able to increase their agricultural productivity, provide safe water, achieve higher levels of industrialisation, and use information and communications technologies to get integrated in the global economy. Many African countries have inefficient energy systems with available energy being inefficiently harnessed and utilised. Large discrepancies between energy access in urban and rural areas characterise most African countries.
Currently, about three billion people in developing countries rely on biomass for heating and cooking, and 1.5 billion people have no access to electricity. The problem is most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa, where over 500 million people or 74% of the population do not have access to electricity (OECD/IEA, 2007). In some countries, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda, over 90% of the population has no access to electricity. These statistics stand in stark contrast to the electrification rates (number of people with access to electricity as a percentage of the total population) in other developing regions notably China and East Asia (88.5%), South Asia (51.8%) and Latin America (90%).
Against this background, the topic “Improving Access to Energy” has been selected as the theme of the annual African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI) meeting to be hosted by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) in Somerset West, South Africa on 9-10 November 2010.
The conference objectives are as follows: