His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has officially opened a two-day high-level Multi-Stakeholder Renewable Energy and Clean Cooking Conference for Mano River Union, MRU countries at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.
In his keynote address, President Bio stated that improving the supply of energy was an imperative for any meaningful development and for poverty reduction as it had permitted the development of various energy-based industries, adding that it would also enhance the human capacity through improved educational facilities, better health services, improved industrialisation and communication facilities.
“Energy facilitates human capital development activities and outcomes and also supports innovation and ICT related activities and services which are very crucial for telecommunications and financial services for persons who cannot otherwise access formal services and institutions. I am happy to report that through our Government development of clear regulation that encourages private sector partnership, I am informed that Sierra Leone has emerged as a mini-grid leader on the continent.
“More than 145 mini-grids should be operational by 2022, serving over 400,000 customers, mostly in rural areas. This significantly contributes to narrowing the disparities in energy access between urban and rural areas. While our MRU neighbours may well learn from this experience, we are eager to look to theirs. Our governments are at an inflexion point and with focused commitment and action and the right technical input and investments, we can collectively achieve greater energy access for our people,’’ he said.
He said that the event was built on a journey towards greater regional harmony, and shared prosperity and unity that started on October 3rd 1973 when President William Tobert Jnr of the Republic of Liberia and President Siaka Stevens of the Republic of Sierra Leone initialled the “Malema Declaration’’ to promote free movement and closer cooperation between the two sister republics.
Secretary-General of the MRU, Ambassador Medina Wesseh, said that the theme of the event within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, sought to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. She said that clean cooking would enable everyone reach the SDGs, saying that just clean cooking could help provide answers to many issues and unlock many areas for growth and economic development.
Minister of Energy, Alhaji Kanja Sesay, said that the event was for the first time bringing representatives from governments, lawmakers and the energy sector from all four MRU countries. He said to fully capitalise on the important moment, they must work together to fulfil several intentions and urged participants to make good use of the event.
Founder and Chairman of ‘The Energy Nexus Network’, TENN, HonourableKandehKollehYumkella, commended President Bio for attending the conference, noting that that was indicative of how important energy access was to economic and social development. He said that the conference was unique because it had been able to bring together ministers and lawmakers, adding that there was a need for an integrated market to increase energy access around the sub-region.