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Africa

How much of Africa's energy needs can be met with renewables?

media Carlos Lopes and African Union Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the launch of the African Renewable Energy Initiative, 1 December 2015 Sarah Elzas/RFI

France’s two billion euro pledge to fund African renewable energy initiatives is only a part of a larger funding package for energy projects on the continent. French President Francois Hollande announced Tuesday on the sidelines of the Cop21 climate summit that a third of France's six billion euro energy plan would go towards the African Renewable Energy Initiative.

"Tthe total installed electricity capacity in Africa is only about 160 gigawatts. This is just half of Japan’s installed capacity," said Carlos Lopes, the President of the Economic Commission for Africa said at the official launch of the African Renewable Energy Initiative on Tuesday

"Given the plentiful renewable energy, Africa has to have an energy mix that has not necessarily to be dominated by fossil fuels.”

The Renewable Energy Initiative aims to add solar, wind and hydro power to that energy mix: 10 gigawatts by 2020, scaled up to 100 to 300 gigawatts by 2030.

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France's two billion euro commitment will fund a fifth of the Initiative's ten billion euro cost.

Armelle Lecomte of Oxfam France welcomes France's participation, which she says "sends a positive signal to African countries" who have been asking for financing on renewable energy projects.

Yet the money is "just an implementation of what President Hollande said in New York back in September at the UN general assembly," she told RFI.

Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the African Development Bank, talked about a "new deal” on energy for Africa. He said the bank will invest 12 billion dollars (11.3 billion euros) in energy projects by 2020.

"The Africa Renewable Energy Initiative is one of the key parts of our efforts to light up and power Africa," he said.

A key part, but not all. Renewables are only part of the mix.

France is only allocating one third of the six billion euros it has pledged to energy in Africa to renewables.

"For some countries, clean energy can include nuclear, and for France in particular. That's definitely something we are questioning," said Lecomte, adding that France has close ties with big energy companies that are still working in fossil fuels.

And yet, Africa needs electricity.

“Africa is simply tired of being in the dark,” said Adesina.

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