Member countries of the Mano River Union (MRU), Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire after a two day multi-stakeholder Renewable Energy and Clean Cooking Conference at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown, developed the “Freetown Declaration,” which focuses on policy formulation and harmonization. The scope of the conference was to allow an in-depth discussion on specific technical areas and financing options of relevance for the uptake of renewable energy, while identifying concrete opportunities for regional cooperation, to ensure a practical, ‘first-hand’ element alongside the more typical plenary set and the policy material that will support parliamentarians and political decision makers to implement the outcome of the event. The event put together five themes; energy access, sub-regional power trade, the energy nexus, clean cooking and utilities infrastructures. The 11 declaration points developed by MRU member countries acknowledges that, “We recognize that current global developments and specific circumstances in the sub-region require that we urgently build consensus on renewable energy. Therefore, we resolve to work on a harmonized policy and regulatory framework, and facilitate efforts aimed at building a common sub-region.” The member countries challenge themselves to ensure members take primary responsibility for its own development because national efforts should be complemented by supportive sub-region to support the energy development initiatives and to enhance the benefits they can derive from such investments.
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In the ‘Freetown Declaration’ 2019, member countries commit themselves to take immediate action as a follow-up by harmonizing policies together for renewable energy and off-grid solution across under the leadership of the MRU secretariat. They will also seek technical assistance from international development partners, establish an MRU association of private sector actors, cooperation among member countries legislators in the field of energy, energy regulators and ministries of energy. Carlton Miller, Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy from Republic of Liberia, while reading the “Freetown Declaration” 2019 on behalf of MRU member countries, said they have reaffirmed their faith in the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (Agenda 2030), and the timely and full realization of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. He reiterated their commitment and determination to ensure delivery on the Energy Goals of SDG, which tend to address affordable and Clean Energy and it related energy objectives of the AU Agenda 2063. Despite the fact that access to energy is significant concern for MRU governments the ‘Freetown Declaration’ 2019 stated that, “We recognize that energy access is serious challenge and a major development constraint in the sub-region, we resolve to work on a harmonized policy and regulatory framework, and facilitate efforts aimed at building a common sub-regional market for the scale up of off-grid solar system and mini-grid.” The Secretary General for MRU, Medina A. Wesseh, said the issue of regional integration is very important towards their drive for the achievement of energy and clean cooking for all. She said despite the fact that there are challenges to it they should not be a matter of stress, so she called for governments engagement with locals on the importance of clean cooking in particular and the need for access to electricity for all. Africa Clean Energy is one of the technical assistance facilities that is focused on improved policies and regulations that enable private sector delivery and increased access to affordable stand-alone solar products. The Renewable Energy Association of Sierra Leone (REASL) is a trade association focused on the development of an efficient and thriving renewable energy market in the country.
By Mohamed Kabba
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