The Malabo Montpellier Panel report 2019 is a strategic policy document that provides a trajectory for policy innovation and design. It gives an overall picture, while drawing precedent from six African countries; Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, and Zambia – with analyses on what they have done successfully as in institutional innovations and policy innovation for energy expansion in support of agriculture and rural people.

 

The Panel launched its latest report on Tuesday, 17th December 2019, at African Princess Hotel – Banjul. a comprehensive, strategic and evidence-based report, dubbed Energized: Policy Innovations to power the transformation of Africa’s agriculture and food system. The Panel is a 17 Leading African and International Experts Forum, which provides a platform to promote policy innovation by using the evidence produced by the panel to facilitate dialogue and exchange amongst high-level decision-makers on African agriculture, nutrition, and food security. Co-chaired by Dr. Ousmane Badiane Africa Director, IFPRI) and Professor Joachim von Braun (Director, Center for Development Research, University of Bonn), the Panel is a successor to the Malabo Montpellier Panel created 2010, and puts greater emphasis on African initiatives, such as the Malabo Declaration’s expanded Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Program (CADDP). It is jointly hosted by the West and Central Office of the International Food Policy Research Institute, the University of Bonn and Imperial College London with its headquarters in Dakar, Senegal.

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Group Photo of the Malabo Montpellier Panel Forum at African Princess Hotel- Banjul Tuesday 17 December 2019.

The report identifies opportunities for greater energy access to transform the livelihoods of the rural poor, reducing the drudgery of labor and generating higher incomes. In a press conference preceded by the launching ceremony, Dr Badiane reiterated that, the Panel is set out to look at three areas, these are: “Institutional innovations, Policy innovations and Programmatic interventions. What operations governments’ have been able to implement to advance policies and those strategic visions that they had in those countries that have made progress. Therefore, what we all have to ask ourselves is not have we arrived yet? but are we progressing?” He said. He went on to explain the dynamics of policies, “policies are not static” – you have policies of yesterday that address yesterday problems, and today’s policies address today’s problems. Policy is a living thing likewise implementation. So, we should look at where we’re making progress; acknowledge it, appreciate it, but also have the ambition to do more, and to move forward, that’s the focus of the Panel’s work, and to make sure we understand that, change is possible and progress is happening, by showing what our peers around us are doing and doing it well” he concluded.

According to evidence generated by the panel’s latest report Energized! The six African countries had registered immense progress in connecting and integrating rural areas for energy access. Typical amongst them is Ethiopia with a score of 48 out of 100 on the RISE in 2017, Ethiopia rates as a middle performer in terms of policies and regulations that support the access to modern energy, efficiency and renewable energy access.

Similarly, Ghana has one of the highest rates of electrification through, partly thanks to its Self-Help Electrification Program as well as the Energising Development (EnDev) partnership, which has prioritised grid extension for irrigation solar-powered irrigation systems and improved stoves for processing cassava that are designed to consume energy and reduce emissions.

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Press Conference of the Malabo Montpellier Panel Report Launching & Forum, Tuesday 17th December 2019 – Banjul: on the right is Dr Baddiane co-chair of the Panel. Next to him is Honourable Minister of Agriculture, The Gambia and then Prof Dr Joachim von Braun co-chair of the Panel.

It is important to note that, “Africa is the highest consumer of traditional solid biomass such as fuel wood, charcoal and farm residues, including animal dung, in the world”, said Prof Joachim von Braun, co-chair of the Panel. “For those cooking indoors in poorly ventilated spaces, this means daily exposure to noxious fumes and the burden of collecting fuel wood – falling heavily on women and girls. Improving Africa’s energy access, then, is also a public health issue”, he alluded. Speaking during the press conference, honourable Minister of Agriculture Amie Fabureh highlighted the unsustainability of irrigation (citing examples at Saapo) as one of the biggest challenges farmers are faced with. He further stated the significance of  mechanization, stressing that “without mechanization, we cannot have food self-sufficiency in food production more or less add value to our products”. She went on to emphasized on the need for private sector partnerships to help enhance the agriculture value chain with emphasis on rice. Noting that, “the majority rice growers are women, of whom we need to support in their rice value-chain production.” She explains.

“Already “there is a rice value-chain project funded by Africa Development Bank (ADB) under the auspices of the current government”. She said. Agricultural crop production should be link to value-chain for farmers to benefit, and encourage private sector to involve and invest in agriculture, the minister continued as she gives examples of the ‘Maroo‘ farms which is supported by government and private sector partnership investments at (Saapo), to address the issues of value chain. As stated by experts, the rapid spread of of-grid and mini-grid solutions for renewable energy offers hope that, African can leapfrog outdated and dirty technologies, with almost five millions families installing solar home systems in 2018. However, achieving universal energy access will require a fourfold increase in investment to U$$120 billion year by 2040.

During an interview with @theliberalpost.blog with one member of the Panel, Prof M.O Kah highlights how ITC can be used for greater energy access in a bid to scale up agricultural transformation in Gambia. “For us to play effectively and efficiently in the utilization of ITC, there has to be the enabling environment and opportunities for knowledge and skills acquisition, in diverse areas within the ITC spectrum” said Professor Muhammadou M.O Kah, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Provost and Professor of Information Technology and Computing at the American University of Nigeria and member of the Malabo Montpellier Panel.

“greater access to energy would benefit women, particularly the rural women who suffer lack of energy, modern energy, electricity and solar power – as most of them are in fuel and charcoal business which is unhealthy, and is killing many of them prematurely as a result of cancer”. _Prof Dr Joachim von Braun

The season intellectual and ITC expert elaborates on Gambia’s ITC challenges and how the tiny West African country can scale up and sustain agriculture as well as ensure food self sufficiency. That smart technologies, smart energy,  digitalization and mechanization cannot be harness without the required expertise and knowledge in mathematics or computing. For example, to operate implements such as robotics or autonomous tractors, need highly skilled and competent individuals. He argued that, Gambia does not lack the resources but lacks the appropriate utilization and distribution of resources, equitably. And a responsive and committed leadership. “we need to disrupt the entire continuum of our education system; from the Early Childhood to University Education, ensuring that our children are equipped with the prerequisite skill sets – the core fundamentals of Mathematics, of Physics, of Chemistry, of Biology and of Sciences. He added. We cannot play competently in the digital economy without adequately rounding in the sciences, especially in Mathematics”. He emphasised.

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Professor Muhammadou O. Kah speaking during the Malabo Montpellier Panel Forum – Banjul Tuesday 17 December 2019

Notwithstanding, competence is required in teaching STEM education, for the transfer of knowledge and skills to children and youths in preparing them to become substantive actors within the digital economy, moving away from the consumering aspect of ITCs and digital services, but to become creators and producers, and this is where wealth creation is and that’s where employment is. “This require deliberate decision, commitment and leadership from our governments and all actors, including the private sector”, he said. In the same vein, he highlighted the significance of smart policy interventions and institutional frameworks to make energy more efficient; more accessible and more affordable. In achieving this, “there has to be alignment of expertise and collaboration amongst institutions”.

“without mechanization, we cannot have food self-sufficiency in food production more or less add value to our products. The majority rice growers are women, of whom we need to support in their rice value chain production.” _Amie Fabureh, Minister of Agriculture, The Gambia

“Ministers of Agriculture and Ministers responsible for Energy supply or energy systems need to collaborate and jointly plan for a vibrant relationship between agriculture and energy, as this will boost agricultural growth, rural growth and poverty reduction.” Said Prof Dr Joachim von Braun Co-Chair Malabo Montpellier Panel and Director of the Center for Development Research (ZEF, University of Bonn). An interview with @theliberalpost.blog, he states that, “the panel highlighted big opportunities for decentralization of local energy systems i.e. develop local solutions and get business involved”. Speaking during the interview, Prof Braun described how “greater access to energy would benefit women, particularly the rural women who suffer lack of energy, modern energy, electricity and solar power – as most of them are in fuel and charcoal business which is unhealthy, and is killing many of them prematurely as a result of cancer“. Vehemently, he states the need to transform the bioenergy into a “modern and good bio-based energy, combined with solar and wind energy”. Using Gambia as an example, Prof Braun advised that, countries such as the Gambia should connect to neighboring countries and regional networks of energy, and thereby cut cost and stabilize a reliable energy system.

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“For those cooking indoors in poorly ventilated spaces, this means daily exposure to noxious fumes and the burden of collecting fuel wood – falling heavily on women and girls. Improving Africa’s energy access, then, is also a public health issue”. Prof Dr Joachim von Braun Director of Co-Chair Malabo Montpellier Panel – speaking at the Malabo Montpellier Panel Forum on Tuesday  17 December 2019.

“I will not only emphasise local resources but also forge regional partnerships as other countries especially with Senegal”, for instance, “the big wind parks off-shore and on-shore. He concluded that, we need to look at African and regional solutions, not only at local ones. And transform the biomass-based energy to biogas-based. Just as China have done. “This can be done locally, besides its clean energy”, he concluded.

The Panel came up with various key recommendations in the Malabo  Montpellier Panel Report 2019. Amongst these include; Designing integrated approaches to energy strategies and policies for agriculture. Ensuring energy access benefit rural areas. To scale up investments in off-grid and min-grid solutions, to enable Africa’s consumers to leapfrog outdated technologies. As mentioned by Prof Joachim during the interview, the report also identifies and recommends gender-respnonsive energy strategies which will involve women in designs and implementation stages. Moreover, to ensure that new technologies fulfill their needs and benefits of their families, as well as the communities. Biomass-based energy use and its challenges is part of key concerns of the panel as indicated in the recommendations; to develop a cross-border policies for energy security that will reduce unequal distribution of energy resources across Africa, while governing both the development and use of renewable energy.

 

Note: For more info and access to the Malabo Montpellier Panel Report 2019, please visit: http://www.mamopanel.org

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