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Call for realism
– by Peter Hauff
© European Commission
Andris Piebalgs has proposed “new energy partnerships” in Africa. Instead of nice rhetoric, Europe’s development commissioner wants solutions
During the European Development Days in Brussels in December, Piebalgs said that the impact of European programmes has to become stronger. He wants to see tangible results. Furthermore, the focus has to be on programmes’ consequences in the lives of the people in developing countries. The Green Paper is entitled “EU development policy in support of inclusive growth and sustainable development”. It contains specific proposals and invites stakeholders to file comments by 17 January, 2011. The issue is how Europe can best
– boost the efficiency of its development efforts,
– promote pro-poor growth in partner countries,
– make sustainability a driver of progress and
– implement agricultural policies to ensure long-term food security.
Since the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were adopted in 2000,
Europe has doubled its official development assistance (ODA). In a speech before the European Parliament, Commissioner Piebalgs pointed out that, nonetheless, some 1.5 billion people continue to live in extreme poverty – half of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. “Many, many citizens lack reliable supply of energy,” he added.
“High-impact aid” would enhance the efficiency of Europe’s development policy. However, Piebalgs stressed that efficiency hinges on democratic governance, respect for human rights and the fight against corruption in recipient countries. In his view, budget support is a way for Europe to contribute to improving standards in the developing world. His department also plans to pay more attention to development-friendly trade.
Europe’s former energy commissioner also said that economies cannot grow without reliable, affordable energy. He pointed out that clean water, good schools or professional healthcare are impossible without electricity. As Piebalgs put it, electricity is a key precondition to practically all MDGs.
Growth rates that exceed five percent – as have been registered in a number of African countries in recent years – lead to greenhouse gas emissions, however. Piebalgs said that should not cause concern. In his view, there is a great opportunity to invest in climate-friendly infrastructure in Africa. The continent’s fast growing population needs jobs, and Africans would benefit from investments in renewable energy sources.
Fewer than 30 % of people in sub-Saharan Africa are connected to power grids. Piebalgs believes that European governments and high-tech firms are ideal partners for promoting change. He wants the European Investment Bank, the World Bank and the African Development Bank to help set up “new energy partnerships”. But Piebalgs remains realistic: Business as usual will not lead to the achievement of all MDGs. He considers that unacceptable and calls for action, not statements. (ph)