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AFRICA must prioritize the development of refineries to ensure maximal exploitation of local resources to achieve energy security, Anibor Kragha, the executive secretary of the African Refiners and Distribution Association (ARDA), has said.

Speaking during the opening of the 2023 ARDA Week Conference, which runs from 13-17 March in Cape Town, South Africa under the topic: ‘Balancing Energy Transition and Energy Security for the African Downstream,’ Kragha provided insight into how the African continent can maximize the development and exploitation of its energy resources to achieve energy security while at the same time ensuring the energy transition is just and inclusive for the entire population.

He explored how issues such as the Russian-Ukraine conflict and energy transition-related policies have highlighted the need for Africa to prioritize downstream investments and infrastructure development to address critical energy issues such as growing demand and rising energy poverty.

The Russian-Ukraine conflict has shown a greater need for short-term interventions to address the energy crisis alongside mid-to-long-term goals of an energy transition, Kragha added.

“What is driving us as ARDA, despite what happened globally, is that energy demand will grow through 2040 due to population growth and industrialization across Africa,” he said.

Stressing the vital need for the continent to balance the energy transition with security, Kragha stated that energy security must be a short-term priority.

“We are not the biggest polluter in the world, hence we are focusing more on un-interrupted, secure, and affordable supply of energy,” he said.

While Africa’s energy demand continues to grow significantly with the continent set to become the world’s largest buyer of refined petroleum products, Kragha spoke of the need for the continent to attract new investments to modernize existing projects and accelerate the pace at which the continent is developing ongoing projects.

“Storage and distribution infrastructure including pipeline and storage should be a focus. We cannot have the dialogue about refineries without storage,” stated Kragha.

With a lack of adequate investments hindering the growth of Africa’s downstream industry, Kragha commented on the various mechanisms being implemented and adopted by ARDA to support the development of downstream infrastructure.

“We want to make sure we have a finance plan to ensure projects are bankable. We want to engage with Afreximbank and the Africa Finance Corporation to ensure our members are able to be financed to produce cleaner fuels and the development of storage and distribution,” he said.

“We are also developing a Liquefied Petroleum Gas Sector Development Fund with Standard Bank and other multi-laterals to ensure the use of gas is optimized by our members to address local energy needs.”

Despite being the lowest emitter, Kragha said Africa must continue to decarbonize its energy industry, stating that: “We need to demonstrate that we can deliver carbon credits across the downstream. What must Africa must do on a decade-by-decade basis is to decarbonize. By 2030 we need cleaner transport, clean cooking, and power solutions.”

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