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Berkeley Talks transcript: Damilola Ogunbiyi on driving an equitable energy transition

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Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All, gave the Energy and Resources Group's 28th Annual Lecture on Energy and Environment on March 31, 2022. (Photo by Bamas100 via Wikimedia Commons)

Listen to Berkeley Talks episode #139: Damilola Ogunbiyi on driving an equitable energy transition. 

[Music: “Silver Lanyard” by Blue Dot Sessions]

Intro: This is Berkeley Talks, a Berkeley News podcast from the Office of Communications and Public Affairs that features lectures and conversations at UC Berkeley. You can subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Acast or wherever you listen. New episodes come out every other Friday.

[Music fades]

Isha Ray: Good evening, everyone. Good evening, friends. Good evening, friends.

Good evening to all of you and welcome to ERG’s 28th Annual Lecture. It’s a great joy for us to be together again, because for the last two years we haven’t been able to meet. This is a truly happy occasion, even beyond most Annual Lectures.

I’m Isha Ray, a faculty member and professor here at the Energy and Resources Group. And it’s my pleasure to welcome all of you this evening. We’re also live streaming this talk for those who are still in sort of Zoom mode, as it were.

I have a few things to quickly go through before I introduce Dan Kammen, who will be introducing our distinguished guest. We are very grateful to the Roth family for supporting the annual lecture. They’re not here today, but they are livestreaming, watching on the livestream. We’re very grateful to them for their continued support of the annual lecture. So, thank you very much, Adrian Roth and family.

We’re very grateful to the Rausser College of Natural Resources, of which we are now a part, as you all know, for co-sponsoring and supporting this program. We are very grateful, extremely grateful to all of you, our ERG alum and beloved students who have been the bedrock on which ERG has always been founded.

And we are very grateful to our distinguished speaker, Ms. Damilola Ogunbiyi, who has a million things to do every single day, but has taken some time out to spend time with us and talk to us about her very important work on sustainable energy for all. Okay?

So, again, welcome to all of you. I’m delighted to see all of you. I would now like to pass over to Professor Dan Kammen for the honor of introducing our distinguished guest.

Dan Kammen: Well, first I’d like to thank you all for being here. It’s great to be back in person for a whole variety of reasons. Life does not exist over Zoom entirely. In fact, it’s arguably how much of a good thing it is to getting as good at Zoom as we all are.

But I’d like to thank you all for coming for multiple reasons. The first is we have this exceptional speaker with us. But also it’s really a pleasure to get the chance to do the one-on-ones, the two-on-one introductions. People who have done really fundamental research on what is the role of energy in not only climate, but climate justice, water and sustainability. And I hope that part of this process of the ERG Annual Lecture is really one to not only get a perception of how things work if you’re more on the theory side, what is the practical part? If you’re more on the practical side, what is the big picture guiding aspects of the story?

And there’s really no one that encapsulates all those elements more than our speaker tonight, Damilola Ogunbiyi, because the mixture of projects that she’s done really illustrates not only how much you can interject decarbonization and justice into the conversation, but how much you can find opportunities to bend the processes, as slow as they are, to make that happen.

And by way of introduction, what I mean is that Damilola educated, first in Nigeria and then in the United Kingdom, but at a very, very tender age, a graduate student age, Damilola headed the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency and was routinely making things happen for communities that had been completely neglected, were off-grid, were really out of sight, out of mind in a whole variety of ways.

And that process led her to both Lagos state government and to her current position, where I believe, by decades at least, she is the youngest director at the United Nations. She is the special adviser to the secretary general. She runs Sustainable Energy for All, an organization which very quickly has become essentially one of the key arms of the United Nations in figuring out, How do we really combine these difficult stories?

And I don’t want… We have two very distinguished economists in the front row. As a physicist, I actually claim that adding justice to the climate story makes solving climate easier, not harder. Whereas I understand adding a constraint should make it more difficult. But what Damilola has done is to demonstrate to people up and down the political process and pipeline, what it means to turn these net-zero goals and net-zero goals that encompass justice, encompass gender equity, socioeconomic equity, tribal equity, into a conversation that has been far too long dominated by people in blue suits, walking from one national capital to another.

And this is really the moment. And just to show you how much we value this process, I want to thank both you and your special assistant , to come and join the ERG family. And because it’s a family, each of your ERG goody bags includes Nigerian treats, Chin Chin, and [inaudible].

And when you look in the bag, you’ll say, “why is there one lemon in the bag?” And that lemon is a Meyer lemon, which is a particular northern California specialty, as they say. And so first, both thank you guys for carving out, which is in a ridiculously complicated schedule, to come and spend time with us. But also a chance to really engage on what it means to turn these kind of lofty languages into practice.

And just to show that we sort of know how to coordinate things a bit, as you all know, I’m now currently serving at USAID, and thankfully Mark Carrato, and if you could just stand up for a second. Mark Carrato is here as well, the coordinator of Power Africa.

And so as Damilola really instructs us as what it means to put these words into practice, we have the listening ear as well from the US government planted in the room as well. So thank you so much for joining us, and we are taking notes, and we’re live streaming. And so we will be turning this into a to-do item agenda for all parties. Thank you so much for being here tonight with us.

Damilola Ogunbiyi: Thank you all for having me. I thought in case I sound really silly, and I don’t really say anything that you need, at least I would look nice for the occasion. So, I wore these ridiculous shoes and I might take them off halfway through the lecture. So, if I drop there’s a reason for it.

But more importantly, just thank you. It’s been really, really warm and refreshing being here in Berkeley. Like when I mean, everyone in is so nice, that’s not normally what you get in New York and in other capitals. But more importantly, everybody wants to make a difference, and they want to take their role seriously in making change for the world. And that is so encouraging, because it brings you back, at least me back, to why I started this, right? And it was simply because I was from, I mean, in Nigerian standards, a quite privileged family and people, we just didn’t really see poverty.

We had poverty all around us, but we didn’t really understand what it means to helping vulnerable people. And it was something that struck to me probably when I was about 9 years old and some 4-year-old child was begging, in the car, and you had to wind down. And I was trying to understand the concept of what did that mean. But family was like, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s just those people.”

And it was something that really struck me, that I wanted to dedicate most of my life to helping whoever “those people” are. And you know, just because you’re born in a certain family, it actually determines your trajectory in life. And that is very, very unfair. Especially when you come from a developing country where you’re even less fortunate.

Today we’re talking about driving just, inclusive and equitable energy transition. It’s not an easy subject, but you need to kind of believe in it from your soul. It’s not just a job. So, I’m going to go through, what is SDG7 and how we’re doing, which you all know. But I really would like some interaction in asking the difficult questions about what we really have to do.

And my favorite word of the whole year, which is disruption, because these systems have been here for decades and they obviously don’t work. Because if they worked, I wouldn’t be here talking to you about these transitions, to be honest. So, let’s think about it as well.

I have certain objectives for the presentation. Talking about Sustainable Development Goal 7, which is the reason why my organization exists. And I’m the youngest under-secretary of the U.N., actually, which is quite scary because there’s no one who’s my age, which also talks about these global structures we put in place and that doesn’t really embrace younger people.

And then, I’m also going to touch on, because it’s about energy, so it seems weird if I don’t touch on how the Ukraine crisis is actually affecting the rest of the world. And how people are almost forgetting about their climate promises when it deals with their own energy security and their countries and their economies seem to be coming first, which is understandable.

There are going to be four ways I’m going to do this. Understanding the scope and current state of SDG7. What leaving behind really means in a just transition. The possible implications of the crisis beyond Europe. And then the Sustainable Energy for All Forum, will be really exciting.

So, what is SEforALL? SEforALL is an international organization that was born from the U.N. during Ban Ki-moon. And I don’t know if people remember there was, before the SDGs, I think they were called MDGs or something, but there was no specific one on energy.

So, when the SDGs came out, there was now SDG7. You know, access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Really want to focus on the word modern, because we do have to think that the solutions we’re providing people, are they actually really modern? Are they meant to take people throughout the trajectory of their lives? Or are they just a connection and a tick box without thinking about how these people evolve or develop?

And then how to do that in line with the Paris Agreement was really important. You know, we are so fixated on if you’re talking about sustainable or you’re talking about reliable, it means you can’t be in-line sometimes with climate. And what I wanted to share through this role was that some of these countries are starting at such a low base, that it is going to be a low carbon trajectory, but you just have to plan it properly.

And more importantly, you need the data. Anyone who knows me, I’m obsessed with data. So, we have data-driven decision making. We have partnerships where we have a key partnership with Mark over there, with Power Africa. And I’ll tell you a little story about Power Africa and how it really changed my view on implementation as well.

And then we have implementation on ground. And what that means is everything we do, if we can’t point to or show the connections we’re making in country, I don’t believe that’s success. I don’t want to say it’s failure, but it’s definitely not success, as far as my point of view on the countries I represent.

So, what is SDG7? I’ve spoken about the large name, but there are three components to it. There’s by 2030, which is less than eight years, we need to ensure universal access, not just to electricity, but also clean cooking. We need to have increased the share of the renewable mix. There’s not really a set deadline on that. Sorry, a set target on that, which was quite strange, that we have to double the rate or improve on energy efficiency.

So, this is where we are now. In terms of universal access, we are not on track at all. We will, all projections show that we will still have almost 760 million people without access to electricity if we continue business as usual. And bear in mind these figures are 2019. So, with COVID, that would just be worse now with the new figures that are coming out.

Clean cooking’s even worse. I think probably about, I don’t know, a quarter or a third of the world population will still not have access to clean cooking by 2030. Share of renewables is slightly increasing, depending on how you view modern and biomass, because they’re two different calculations, but it’s still not good enough. And in terms of energy efficiency, we are projected to be off track. So, things don’t look very good right now, and they haven’t looked good for a while.

In terms of just how much is invested into energy. According to IEA, it’s about $1.37 trillion of annual investments that’s actually needed to achieve SDG7. And I keep on saying annual, not the total, annual every single year. And they break it into different scenarios. But the truth is, there’s just not enough actually happening. It might sound a lot, $1.37 trillion. But if we think, the minimum amount that the developed world came together to resolve the COVID crisis was $17 trillion at funding of less than 1%. And they found this money in six months.

So, if something is really, really important, we do figure it out as a global community. And that’s how we should think about when we hear these figures. And it’s probably more now, but at that time it was $17 trillion that was found.

I’m going to go a deep dive on what is SDG7. According to the World Bank, this was the tier system they put together, in terms of what electricity access really means. I personally have no time for Tier 0 and Tier 1. I don’t think it…

I personally have no time for tier zero and tier one. I don’t think it’s electrification, I think it’s lighting. There is a place of lighting. It’s not that I’m saying lighting is bad, but I just don’t like it being called electrification. I think I really support the work that Todd Mos is doing at the energy for growth hub and having modern energy minimum advocated when we actually really consider what people have to use for electrification. And this modern energy mini minimum is 1,000 kilowatt-hours. And you go and see the average American uses 11,000. You are actually really asking for 10 times less than what most of you guys use as the minimum. So, it’s really important to know and put that into context. So, where are the gaps? We have 759 million people without access to electricity today, and 592 million of those people, or a bit more now, reside in Africa.

Asia has made significant progress, and this is really because of India and everyone else will be fine, basically. What does that look like in terms of countries? What it shows us is about 23 countries in the world makes up 80% of the electrification challenge. This figure is really, really important because you can’t start everywhere, but what you want to laser focus, it’s important to know who you laser focus on. I’m not very proud to say that my country Nigeria has the highest electricity access deficit with 90 million people out of a population of about 200 million. But even then you still have countries like Nigeria, countries like Ethiopia achieving kind of between 40 to 55% access rates. But if you take much smaller countries, which are now on this list, like maybe for example, Sierra Leone or Burkina Faso, that’s like nine or 10% of their total electrification.

Some populations are only 18 million. By getting them to universal access, it’s such a huge economic growth story for those countries. While I have this here, I don’t like forgetting smaller countries that a few million people would just transform the landscape of those countries. We really can’t forget the LDCs and the SIDS as we talk about this, but this picture just shows you how bad things are and how Africa is really, really at risk of continuously being left behind, because populations are still growing. So, it’s not that access isn’t happening. It’s that population is outpacing connections. Does that make sense? Yeah. Hope so. Now I’m going to move into clean cooking. And I think for clean cooking, it’s important to understand at least the WHO definition of clean cooking. And clean cooking is the other part of universal access that we don’t talk about as much.

So, that’s LPG, ethanol, biogas, solar cooking and electricity. And the point of this is to really, really move, especially women, I think it’s 99% of women that use firewood into cleaner sources of energy. What does that mean globally? I’m happy to say this is a statistic that Africa doesn’t lead. There’s about 1.5 billion people in Asia that don’t have access to clean cooking and just shy of a billion in Africa. And like I said, everybody else will probably sort themselves out. In terms of countries, this is what it looks like as well. So, again, Nigeria is there and the largest one in Africa that has the largest clean cooking issue. We’ve got India who’s made tremendous progress on electrification and really have made a lot of progress on clean cooking as well. If you think about the size and population of India, and then China. China is on top. But it’s not just about how many people don’t have it it’s really important to understand the access rate as well.

So, you have some countries like Madagascar, that’s only like 1% of their population that actually uses clean cooking. This is a big deal because clean cooking is, I think the fourth largest killer of women currently in continent right now, from indoor pollution. So, it’s not just a big deal from a climate lens because of all the deforestation it causes, it’s also a big deal because it actually kills women. In perspective, for 4 million women to die every year because they don’t have access to clean cooking and that is not seen as a crisis, really does bother me. And that is why I’m highlighting clean cooking in this segment. And there’s also 4 million death from premature of things every year because of population and then solid fuel in Africa causes more than 490 premature deaths, the second largest health risk in Africa. I just read that. I didn’t see that.

So, what does that look like? If you have a very nice Venn diagram and you have electrification on one side and you have to cooking on the other side, you see the key countries that are risk of setting everybody behind. And you have to note, we are just talking about connections to electricity. We’re not even talking about sustainable energy yet.

So, it’s really, really important that when we talk and when we understand what is the energy transition, that energy access is a firm part of the energy transition. It does bother me that we are speaking this language to developing countries and we are saying, “I want you to do something you don’t even have enough of.” I did this Netflix series, I can’t remember what it’s called, Ugo would remember. And I tried to break it down in non-energy terms and I said, it’s like me having an auntie in Lagos and she gets on the bus every day and the bus takes her four hours. And it’s a diesel bus and she goes to her market store and she’s been saving up for like 10 years to buy a little kind of diesel petrol car.

And what the Global North is telling the Global South to do, in the case of my aunties, “Don’t buy that petrol car. Go and buy a Tesla,” which is 20 times more expensive and we’re not going to give you any financing for that. And until you buy the Tesla, you have to stay on the bus. That is what is currently happening here and that is what is so unjust about this climate movement. Africa is not the place you start from. Africa is the place that you encourage to do things, but it’s not where you ban the very limited resources because there’s a development agenda in Africa that a lot of Global North countries don’t face.

Our approach has always been electrification, clean cooking and then productive uses. With everything we do in electrification, anybody who has worked on the community level on these things, you realize that these people are quite industrious. They’re not lazy people sitting around wondering what to do, they actually do have some type of small business. And what we’ve noticed is people increasingly tell us that, “We want our business to be powered before our homes because it’s the business that we can earn more money that we can grow and then we would be able to pay for our homes.” This is really important because it cuts out that vicious aid cycle that we have, where everybody has to come and ask for aid to do anything. I’m not saying, and this is livestream, that we don’t have to power residential homes. But what I’m trying to say is that, for the most vulnerable people, you have to get them out of poverty.

The whole point of this is to get people out of energy poverty. It’s not to give them a little bit of energy so they can live their lives, but they can’t actually grow from it. This is a point I take very seriously and I try and do this from data. So, this is an integrated energy plan that we did for Nigeria. It was very important for me to think, “Okay, we have all these people in Nigeria that don’t have electrification. What is the least cost way of connecting these people?” Because money matters as well. Is it grid connected? Is it mini grid? Is it solar home systems? And that is what we’ve kind of plotted here.

And then what is the cost of it? There’s also some really cool stuff about availability costs. The cost people would actually pay for electrification. The cost people will pay for sustainable energy. That’s all there, but it’s a good way to see. But more importantly, it’s a good way to attract the private sector. So, the private sector can see, from community to community, where power is needed, where the nearest bank is, where financial inclusion can be.

And it allows them to determine they want to go to these areas before they even step the country. And so I feel like data is such a powerful tool that we do not utilize enough when we are developing energy systems. Because it was truly integrated, I really, really focused on clean cooking as well because I hadn’t seen anything. I hadn’t seen anything to tell me what is the best source of energy. Do people need subsidy for LPG canisters? Can people do E-cooking tomorrow if you connect them? And that’s what we also have here. We split between rural and urban, because it’s really important. A lot of people feel, I think it was [inaudible] that mentioned today. The one we’re talking about electrification, we just mean rural. No, we don’t. 70% of Africa is going to live in the cities in a few decades, so the cities really matter. And some of the cities don’t have electrification, that’s just the truth, to span the whole community. So, you really have to take that in consideration.

This is just to show you examples of models and then we have it… And the last bit was to make it publicly available. There’s so many things sitting on people’s desktops. It’s probably low research stuff that you guys have done. The more people know about these things, the more attractive they are, because we really, really feel that government should stick to policy and enabling environment and private sector needs to be the one driving the energy sector, at least on the continent. I mean, you all know this, I’m not going to talk too much about it, but this is what we tend to present to a lot of politicians as well, especially the ones that don’t really care about climate.

You have to talk about the job creation thing, that’s always number one and for decentralized systems, every 1,000 connections will bring you 25 jobs. This is an important statistic. The growth in agriculture value change. And then the one that really shocked me was the one in terms of women. So, at least in Sub-Saharan Africa, if you give a woman sustainable energy and nothing else, this is no microloans or pensions, or anything like that, they are likely to earn 59% what they were earning before, just by having sustainable electricity, which will finally put them on par with the male counterpart, which is quite exciting. I was working for like 30 minutes and I realize I have so many slides. Going quickly through all of this energy share of renewables and we’re going to spend too much time on it. I think a lot of people understand where we stand with the share of renewables in terms of the country profiles.

Only about 16% of energy consumed by the 20 top energy consuming countries are actually from renewables. So, it’s really important to note that. Some are doing better than others, as you can see. In terms of global investments in renewables, I feel it’s kind of stayed quite static. It goes from like $290 billion to like $300 billion. It goes down, it goes up again, but they’ve not been this huge surge that we really wanted to see to the $1 trillion mark, which is what we’ve always been promised and always been guiding. China is still the top investor in renewables. And then the next two thirds of investments are done by the EU, the UK and the US. That’s a lot of countries, but it’s still not at the rate we would like to see, but it’s still so much better than energy access and also efficiency.

This is about wind and solar, but I’ll come back to that if I’m asked questions. Instead, or in terms of energy efficiency, I’m sure you all know there’s a calculation that roughly about 4.8 mega-joules to generate $1 of economic activity and it differs by continent. But this is based on the World Bank ESMAP data. And if we want to go a bit more granular, you can see the countries that, that actually affects.

Energy efficiency is so important now. I think with everything going on, I think we need to really take that a lot more seriously and I’m going to speak maybe out of hand, but that’s what shocked me when I was in New York. I got to New York and all the lights are on, all the time. And I’m looking around like, “Okay, this is really, really weird.” That you are just conscious that everywhere you go, everything is on and it’s not necessarily energy saving, but obviously the efficiency in so many other areas as a transportation sector, it’s just the level of waste, I guess when you have a lot of it, we really need to put some key policies in place and that’s what I’m going to really say about that because I think we do have an understanding of energy efficiency.

I think globally, let’s be honest, 2014, we had over $300 billion, 2021 we have less than $300 billion. Shows that no one’s really taking it that seriously, because it shouldn’t be going up and down, up and down. I mean, it shouldn’t be static again, because there’s a lot of money that can be saved, if you are energy efficient. Europe and Asia leading the efforts in energy efficiency by far almost double of what North America is doing right now. So, I guess that’s important for you in this room on how you can actually change that dynamic, especially for the continent. Okay. I said all of that, I just got to the second section, so please bear with me. This slide is very, very important to me.

I don’t think people understand when we talk about just how inequitable energy consumption actually is. So, myself being born Black African is 20 times a disadvantage of anybody in the world because of how much energy I’m born into. Being born in Africa, you’re already born into energy poverty, because there’s just not enough energy. So, this was kind of just showing how much energy per capita consumption that is actually utilized and how privileged people, especially in North America, really are. And then do they need that? Again, is it Africa that you start with?

This is another slide I think is very, very, very important. If you look at SSA and you take out South Africa, the installed capacity, this isn’t the amount of energy produced every day, but the installed capacity is 81 gigawatts. I mean, I don’t know what else to say, you’re like “The big grids.” I’m like, “Which big grid, this is 81 gigawatts.” And to bring it really home, these are the emissions, that little blue part, is for 1 billion people. So, again, when everyone talks about climate and the emissions, I’m like, this is not where you start. This is what you prevent from looking like this.

So, what do we have to do? If we want to take just, inclusive, equitable energy transitions seriously, then we need to prioritize Africa and we need to prioritize energy access and make sure it’s done in a low-carbon pathway. This is very, very important because the energy transition story for the African, and probably parts of South Asian continent, is about small scale diesel and petrol generating that you can’t control. You don’t know where they are half the time and they cause so much damage. That is the transition story. It’s not necessarily big coal plants or the way people like to put it. The other thing is developing proper energy transition plans for the African context. One of the reasons why we chose Nigeria was because it was such a big oil and gas economy and it was the largest economy in Africa. And we looked at it and we first tried to develop a plan for the great net zero and Nigeria achieving net zero by 2050, we saw that was impossible. That just was not going to happen. And then we then focused on it being by 2060.

And I think the next slide just shows what is required. So, for a country like Nigeria, that’s just one country in Africa, it’s going to need about one… Sorry, this still says 2050, but it’s going to need about $1.9 trillion. This is if all the policies are perfect and political situations are perfect, that is how much is needed, of which $400 billion is above business as usual spending. So, it’s really important to understand that these transitions you want these countries to do, also have to be funded and they have to be funded by someone. And it’s not just about decommissioning coal, not everybody has coal. Decommissioning coal has to happen, and that’s very, very important, but countries that are not dependent on coal, also have to be taken seriously because they can use all sorts of other devices to get to their transition.

And we can’t come back and say, “Oh, why did you do this?” It was like, “Well, you never supported us with the renewables that you say that you’re supporting.” I don’t think the figures are here, but I think the African energy sector got about $4 billion last year, of investments, which is nothing in renewables. It’s not like there’s this big push to give all this money to renewables and clean as well and that is a narrative we really want to change. I’ve spoken that. I’m just going to really just quickly touch on the energy markets and the effect of the Russian-Ukraine crisis. I think we all agree that this is a very awful situation and this isn’t something we could have predicted. At the U.N., there are three crisis groups; there’s one for food, there’s one for energy and there’s also one for finance. And I lead on the one for energy.

And we just had to look at the statistics in terms of Russia’s share of the market in terms of energy, the people and the countries that are at risk because of the Russian crisis but I don’t think it’s up there. But what struck me was that, we are actually at risk of about 24 countries going into famine as well, because of the gas prices affecting the fertilizer companies and the fertilizer companies not producing fertilizer to produce food to serve people. So, it is a really, really tough situation right now. In terms of energy security issues affecting our global energy mix, what we’ve seen is quite tough. People kind of delaying the exit from coal is quite shocking and people being able to switch back onto coal that they claimed what decommissioned, is even more shocking.

And when you see countries like even Germany sometimes, you’re like “If German efficiency can’t fix it, I don’t know what can.” That is tough. And it’s, again, back to the argument that if the richest countries in the world can’t figure it out, how do you expect the poorest countries to magically leapfrog. Opposition to nuclear, completely diminishing at this time. I don’t really think that’s particularly a bad thing because I think we need all these different, but we need to be consistent with our messaging. Hoping that there’s a big acceleration of renewable deployment, that’s a good thing, green hydrogen. But then we also see that after this summer goes, going into the winter months, everybody else is going to need power for heating, which means increased gas and increase other productions. We’ve also seen, which is somehow worrying, how Europe is increasingly asking gas producing and oil producing African countries for more, when they’ve made it very clear that they’re not funding any type of fossil in some of these countries.

So, again, it’s a consistency of messaging. You can’t say a fuel is good for me, but it’s bad for you. It has to be consistent. We are all trying to get to a point of renewable energy, that is our goal, but what transition fuels might we have to use to do that? I don’t think any country should dictate what the other country needs, maybe a part from coal, I think we should all know that we have to get out of that.

In terms of livelihoods, obviously there’s a cross border disruption and all the horrible things especially with the refugees. I spoke about fertilizers, I spoke about supply and chain disruptions, and these are the things that we are trying to get to at the U.N. I don’t know if people know, but if there’s any shake or any crisis, what happens is a lot of the, especially European countries, shut down their borders to everything and try and keep it internally. That greatly effects everywhere, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and it’s an instant thing. And people are not held accountable for that because understanding they’re protect their own economy, but that’s not really good enough.

In terms of food, I think the hardest hit has been the issues where wheat, barley, sun seed oil, there’s just like three or four main ingredients to make everything else and some countries are really, really suffering by not getting that because Ukraine is really the food basket of the world. But more importantly, people holding what they have very similar to vaccines and not wanting to share it. And this is something at the U.N. that we see is not right. And we are speaking up about it. And then I guess the large part is finance because everyone’s like, “This is great, people can’t pay for fuel subsidy.”

Yes, that is good. But it doesn’t mean that some of this fuel subsidy won’t happen with social protections. There’re countries that have to pay off debts, that are going to default on those debts, which mean they can’t borrow any more money. And there’re also countries that, frankly, if we are going to be honest with ourselves, they are not going to be able to afford these fuel prices. So if we can’t afford this fuel price, that totally change the shape of what global GDP is going to look like. I don’t think we can…

Shape of what global GDP is going to look like. I don’t think we can really say what that could actually look like. And unfortunately, it’s always the most vulnerable countries that suffer. And these are the activities that the world [inaudible] and the IMF are taking very seriously, but these are things that have to happen quickly. And I guess finally, finally, on the issue is going to be the reduction of aid because understandably, countries are going to push their aids to Ukraine, which is needed, but that means cutting out whole programs, especially in the SIDS and the LDCs, which sometimes makes up 90% of their aid budget and 40% of their actual budget, so it is a real tough time.

On the bright note, we’re having a forum. So everything… See how I switch over there, I have to end on something light. So we normally have this every two years at Sustainable Energy for All. We couldn’t because of COVID, this time we’re having in Kigali. I’m super excited to bring everyone on the continent because I think everyone should just see how amazing the continent is. And everything I spoke about is going to be highlighted. Mark and Dan are going to be there, which is most exciting and we hope you guys will as well, but it’s all focused on just how do we actually accelerate Sustainable Development Goal 7? And then also, building on the momentum of last year, which is when we had a U.N. High-level Dialogue, which was the first time in 40 years the U.N. had had a conversation about energy. Bear in mind, we have a COP every single year, it just shows the disconnect. And we also see this as a really critical moment between COP26 and what we are branding as an African COP in Egypt.

I’m not going to go through all these objectives. I’m going to talk about the youth. So, Registration Fee WAIVED, thanks to Ugo sitting over here. And we really, really want to get youth voices. This is the continent of the youth, the youth are doing so many amazing things. We don’t want to be like all these conferences that the youth are just the fifth panel member, when you list everyone out and realize you don’t have a youth, we actually want the youth to truly participate. So, any things you guys want to do, please, please tell us. And diversity very important for me as an organization and especially female voices in this space as well because I know just how hard it is to be a female in the energy space and being taking seriously as well. These are all things we’re going to try and capture here and I hope you guys can join. I think I’m at 15 minutes, but I will stop here. Thank you so much for listening to me. I’m happy to take your questions.

Isha Ray: Thank you so very… Let me take this off. Thank you very much, Damilola. That talk was truly in the spirit of ERG’s mission of a sustainable environment and a just society and we are really, really grateful that you shared your views with us.

Damilola requested a very interactive session because she’s very interested in hearing the questions that our students and our alum have. And she also said she was very open to challenging questions so we don’t have to do any polite, vanilla stuff. Bring on the rocky road is what we say. So, I am going to moderate so I’m going to try my best to give everybody a chance to ask a question and keep track of who’s raised their hands. There are some mics that will meet you if you plan to speak. Please do ask any questions that you want to ask. This is a great opportunity and I’m going to just try to make sure that everyone gets a chance to ask a question if they want to. And just, it’s good if it’s mainly a question and not a very prolonged comment. We have one speaker and she’s done speaking. Okay.

Max Auffhammer: Thank you so much for the amazing talk. You had alluded to this a little bit in your remarks. I’m Max Auffhammer, faculty here. You stepped up in such a big way and your career is amazing, so can you talk a little bit about what was really hard on your path to this stage and beyond?

Damilola Ogunbiyi: Hello. Can everyone hear me? Hello. Okay. All right. Great. Thank you. Thank you very much back. I think, especially in the younger days, when I was young, it was the fact that I was young and female. I think there was, especially in my country, moving on to the federal government. I’m from Lagos so everything in, it’s in the South, everyone’s cool. But when I moved to the federal government, I realized how backwards people were about women in any type of leadership role. And they just didn’t think there was any place for leadership, or sorry, for women. And I had quite a few occasions that people would just say that to my face and I would just be like, what? That you shouldn’t be here. It’s engineering or it’s energy. It should be male dominated.

And I told Max yesterday that, in some areas, they put man, child, goat, and then put women at the end of the scenario because that’s how little, unfortunately, they think about us in some of these societies. And that’s why it was very, very important for me to break what is conventional in those societies. Having said that, I don’t believe it’s better in the global environment, but it’s not great. I mean, there are not that many women you can point to in the energy space, even here, but there’s so many women doing amazing things. But there are not that many women that are recognized, which again, I think is quite sad.

Isha Ray: Yes.

Audience 01:  Hi, thank you Damilola for your presentation. I know I just walked in but I’ve been listening on YouTube this entire time, I swear. My name is [inaudible]. I’m a grad student here and I’m also a consultant on an energy research project, so you actually showed a lot of… I took so many screenshots of your slides. I hope that they share the slides after because the data was actually really amazing.

I’m wondering, when you discuss the financing gap, especially for the continent of Africa and how it’ll take, I don’t know if you said it was for Nigeria in particular or for all of Africa, it’ll take almost $2 trillion to finance access to energy for all. And I’m wondering because the project that I’m on is trying to fill that financing gap with remittances. So I’m wondering if you think that that’s a viable strategy or if there are other financing methods that you can say, that you can highly recommend in that context?

Damilola Ogunbiyi: Okay, so that $1.9 trillion was for the energy transition, it wasn’t just for universal access, and it looked at five sectors. It was building oil and gas, transportation, electrification, industrialization. Because I feel, and in the plans it shows, that when you are talking about the energy transition on the continent, you have to put universal access first. Then you have to think about industrialization, how much power that will take. And then you also make sure it’s in a low carbon way, it’s not the other way around. That $1.9 trillion was just Nigeria. It wasn’t the entire continent. And I, yes, I do think the financial model that you’re looking at, or the instrument, is viable. I think that’s probably about six or seven instruments that should be working at the same time. And I definitely think there’s space to develop more innovative financing to resolve the issue.

I’ll give you a quick example. It’s only in some parts of West Africa, which Nigeria is part of it, that we’ve seen actually financially viable mini grids. And it’s not because they’re selling power, it’s because of all the different services they’re selling with the power. So you have a lot of tech people in the power space because they want to sell micro pensions and loans and all those things and power is just a fraction of what they actually earn back. But when you have that financial inclusion channel, it allows you to do so much more.

And that’s an area that I think is going to grow a bit more. You won’t see traditional energy people, or even traditional solar providers have had the main sources of at least decentralized energy. I think you’ll still see them for grid based. And for me, that’s really exciting because when we were doing these projects, we never thought that that’s where it would get to. We were just doing it because we wanted to provide SMEs with better power sources and make sure they took away their generating set. We didn’t know that there was this whole channel of investments that could come. I think they even, some of them, pay their children’s school fees through the same portal that they pay for their solar supply so it’s quite cool.

Isha Ray: Yes.

Audience 02: Thank you. I work in the private sector, mostly on energy storage, and I’m curious to know your stance on the link between education in those areas where the investments are taking place specifically. For example, when new technologies come into place, it takes certain effort for whoever is installing them to get them right for a specific period of time, if you talk micro grades or other sorts of energy technologies. How does, when I talk about education, we talk about also the role of bringing some part of the population in line with that type of technology, that it was not necessarily developed in the local areas.

So, I wanted to hear about your experience with that type of scenario in which, if we want to empower and bring some sort of sustainable justice to these areas, what has been sort of the main challenge on engaging population with this type of technological sort of catch up that has to happen in these area?

Damilola Ogunbiyi: Okay. I mean, I don’t know the technology you’re talking about, but the only way you can assure people that they should use anything is by doing the projects. And I feel sometimes when people are developing new technologies, they’re thinking the policy should drive the projects.

The truth is, no policy will be in place until people see things working. And luckily, a lot of people in these communities, when they see things working, they’re your biggest advocate for continuing it. So, if you give somebody sustainable energy, they want to keep on having sustainable energy, especially if it’s affordable. So, there is work at the beginning to even tell people that solar works, because some people don’t believe it and it’s not really their fault. It’s all these solutions that had been provided that didn’t work in their communities.

When people say, “Oh, it’s a new technology and stuff,” we had the discussion today. I don’t think it’s about technology. It’s about people understanding what works and what doesn’t work. You have to understand, some of these communities have not had electricity forever. And they’ve been promised by government or people coming for decades, that we’re coming back, we’re coming back, we’re coming back. You can imagine if that was you or your family.

So, if you have that mindset, it’s easier to say, and we always do this if we go into a normal community, especially in my previous job, we would do the chief house, the school and the primary healthcare center. And we just have that run for six months. Everybody else will be begging to be connect to whatever that is. But if you do it and you want to have this big community relation thing, which is good, and you have to do anyway, but you can’t show what is coming to place.

And the first thing you show them is this is the tariff model for people who have never used electricity and their clean cooking is free through fuel wood, it’s not going to work. It’s just human behavior. It’s not about being in Africa, Asia anyway, it just doesn’t work that way.

So, it’s kind of showing by example to embrace. I think something like storage people have embraced it. I really don’t know any decentralized project that doesn’t have solar plus storage. What they might not have is they might still have an increased use of using a diesel generator because a storage might not be enough because the storage costs have not gone down to a price point where turning on the gen set for 10 days a year just makes sense. But that is back to the economics. I don’t think that is really the technology issue.

And then the price drop is really important because we spoke about the supply chain issue. By the time it gets on continent, it’s not as cheap. It’s not as cheap as how everybody talks about it and that’s why there needs to be… I’m not saying compete with manufacturing, but there needs to be assembly capability on continent. I don’t know of anywhere now, maybe South Africa, but I still doubt that you can buy 5,000 panels if you just wanted it now, on continent, anywhere. And that’s very scary if you’re saying that this is the way that the whole continent should be going.

Audience 03: Thanks for a very fascinating talk. I think one number that struck me was that Africa is a 80 gigawatt demand. That is like power demand for Texas. One 40th the population.

I think I have two questions. First is that, do you have examples at a national scale in Africa, there was some rapid progress either in clean cooking or electrification, and what was the few factors? Or does it have to be national, a large program that became successful? What was the secret sauce that made it happen and is it replicable?

And then I had a hard question/suggestion is that I find this, why are we calling it clean cooking? It should be convenient cooking. If the climate footprint is so small, why are we focusing calling it clean? Any form of convenient cooking will bring justice. And the footprint is so small that maybe that’s the way to make it more politically attractive. But the first question is more important.

Damilola Ogunbiyi: I’ll answer the second question first because if you don’t have clean, green or sustainable, nobody really wants to fund anything. It’s just like the energy transition, when you call it energy access, no one is really interested, but when you call it energy transition, then yes, we’re ready to fund. It’s a sad world we live in, but terminology does matter.

But back to your other questions, there’s just quite a lot of factors that go in to things being successful. I know it doesn’t have to be on the federal level, but having federal might normally counts because a lot of counterparts, especially when they’re not from the locality, want to see what does the federal government say? You can’t run a World Bank program unless the federal government signs off, even if it’s on the state level and they’re the ones that are going to bring funding.

So, I would say that the first thing is political will, governments, local governments. They have to have the political world that they want to do this. The second thing is the use of data and technology has totally changed the landscape. Being able to understand people’s needs now and what their needs will be like in 20 years time and planning for that whole energy exercise, does make a difference on the type of investor you get because you don’t invest in this sector if you want to be in and out in three years time. It’s not valuation game. It’s a long-term game. It’s almost like thinking of yourself as a utility. Having the right type of investors, which I don’t think usually come into Africa. A lot of people come in for the subsidy and when things are not going very well, they go out again and then that’s why you have to train locals. You have to train locals who take things up and have a right balance of international companies and local companies doing the work.

And then finally, financing. I ran the largest energy access program in Africa and it’s still the largest energy access and it’s just ridiculous. We should have a thousand of these by now. It’s the only one effective by the World Bank and it’s in one country. It’s just, there needs to… I’m sorry. The fourth one is international coordination and seeing something as a crisis really being a crisis. There’s no sanctions on the World Bank or the AFD or the AFDB or any of these development agencies to get things done within a certain time. There’s no conditions. If it takes two years or if it takes six years to make a project effective, nothing happens to anybody.

It’s not like if you’re working in private sector and you don’t hit those KPIs, you might get sacked. Nothing happens. And then when the project is actually effective, that’s when the nightmare actually starts because every dollar you send has to be signed off by DC, or Abidjan, or one of these places that are not around. If it takes them three months to answer your email, if it takes them two weeks, again, nothing happens. And it’s always the vulnerable people that suffer when everything is delayed.

So, we also have to hold organizations accountable because those are the only organizations and instruments we have. And that’s why I’m really pushing for private sector to come in. And hopefully, that’s what Mark and Dan are also going to make sure they bring into the continent very soon.

Audience 04: Hi, I’m a graduate student here too. I had a question about the slide about the 61. I think it was 61 gigawatts.

Damilola Ogunbiyi: 81.

Audience 04: 81. What do you see as rough numbers, the deficit to where it should… What is the level of energy that electricity, that should be represented there? And what do you see as the energy pathway, the mix of sources that could get to the target that both economically and environmentally sustainable? And I guess I have a third last part.

Damilola Ogunbiyi: Okay.

Audience 04: Is just what, I mean, to get there, what are the main obstacles? I mean, is it governments? Is it function, corruption, functioning governments, economic institutions? So, I guess a three part question there.

Damilola Ogunbiyi: Okay. So, the 81 gigawatts has to at least be 20X to get anywhere near anyone living a decent life. It does happen. My country has 40 gigawatts, but it’s diesel and petrol generators. It’s not in store capacity, so it’s not… This is the true sense in terms of what is on grid and what is big and what is recognized. The truth is, the economies are much bigger than that. It’s just that they’re working on much dirtier fuels, which we are trying to avoid at all costs. So I have to have a caveat when it comes to that. I can’t remember your second question, I can only remember your third. In terms of what has to happen, I think it starts and ends with financing, however useless and maybe even corrupt some governments are. If they know that if something is going to be funded, it is not in their interest to stop that.

But right now there’s nothing encouraging. Like we said, we need $1.9 trillion for Nigeria and someone goes, “Oh yeah, we’ve got $500,000 to assist you on this.” No one’s going to say, “Well, yes, let’s take that $500,000.” So, the economies of scale is really important. Scalability is important. Where we want to provide sustainable energy for a billion people, not 10, not two, not a thousand.

So, I think once you understand it and get that skill right, and there’s financing to back it over a number of years by the way, it’s not just one year or two years, people will fall in line. And I can only speak from my experience because everyone thought I was crazy powering schools and hospitals, you’re not going to get anywhere from that. But once I said, “Oh, here’s $550 million from the World Bank” and the FDB, all the regulations were signed off, all the policy work was done, because this was real money that could connect real people. So, I’m not just saying this, I’ve lived this. And your last question, sorry?

Audience 04: [Inaudible]

Damilola Ogunbiyi: Yes, they definitely have done. I can’t tell you the split between hydro, solar, wind, but I can tell you, which seems very controversial, that gas is part of the African energy transition, for sure. Even if it’s just there for base load to integrate the renewables, but it is there. What we need to be doing is stop having a conversation about fossil or no fossil. We need to have a conversation about how to fund the whole energy transition, of which there would be a time that gas increases at least to 2030 while you’re trying to get to universal access or 2035. And then it would decrease again later on. But to think that that is not going to happen is not right. And I feel gas is part of most countries’ energy transition, especially when it relates to clean cooking, or convenient cooking as it is called now.

Isha Ray: David.

David: Thank you for the really interesting talk. I have two questions about the financing part. The first one is, what, in your mind, is the primary obstacle for more private sector investment? And then I have a question about more subsidy type investment. How, in your mind, how should that be structured? So, is that lots of small grants or in what way do you think would that ideally be distributed?

Damilola Ogunbiyi: Okay, so I’ll start with the subsidy. For me, I’m a big fan of results-based financing. So, I’m a big fan of subsidy post connection, actually subsidy three months after connection. I have to see it’s been working for three months and so it’s not, you just take the subsidy and run away with it.

Again, when you’re dealing with this type of challenge, it has to be to scale. So, you don’t only want a company that can do one or two mini grids. You want companies that can do 100 mini grids, and affect a few hundred thousand people. And I do think that those subsidies should be per connection, but it should be to scale, if you really want to change things. Again, please, it doesn’t mean that a lot of these pilot projects that are actually showing that different new technologies aren’t important. They are important.

But like I tell people, to get universal access, we have all the technology we need today. So, let’s stop saying we need to create this. We don’t in terms of technology. It’s just good to have it. And I used the example this morning, when I did my projects in Lagos, I was using gel batteries. I can’t even imagine doing anything without lithium now. But it doesn’t mean I regret using gel initially, and they’re not still working. But again, just sharing the evolution of technology, I think, is important.

In terms of, you mentioned the private sector, I think we need to get out of this notion that the private sector is going to come and save us. Government plays a role. Sovereigns play a role to help govern, and private sector only going to come in when there is the right enabling environment. And that’s beyond regulation. That’s security. That’s understanding your foreign exchange regime. That’s, “I have to be able to get my money out when I put it into your country. If I put things down, I need to take them out if things go wrong.”

And those are the environments we really, really have to create if we are serious for the private sector to come in, and still provide them subsidy to get it done. So, I hate people thinking, “Oh, the private sector. They’re there to make money,” and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. We might have to cap how much they want to make, but we need to create environments, just like everywhere else, that if you are going to set up a business, that’s just a minimum of what you’d want to do, what you want to see and that’s where the data played a very big piece in the role in getting investible type documents. Investible debts. Who do you talk to when you step into a country? Which government party? Which permits do you need? All those things determine the types of private sector and what they’re going to do, and I think that’s missing. And we’ve been spending a lot of time working with countries on that, and showing them they’re actually in competition, which some countries forget sometimes. Yes?

Audience 05: Hello. Thank you so much for your talk and refreshing perspective. I’m part of the so-called private sector. I’m part of Enline, which is a data and sensing company that’s focused on energy reliability. And I guess, I think data can play a lot of roles in this. It can shine a light on inequity, or it can actually trigger actionable change and insight. And I wondered if you could talk a little bit about what are your sense of the key data gaps and what are the ones that are actually going to lead to change and action and policy change?

Damilola Ogunbiyi: Well, I’ll give you some background on it. Many years ago, again, when I was younger, Power Africa actually funded about 25 really exceptional Nigerians to come and work with me on this issue. We wanted to save the world. We’re going to provide everybody access. And it was a really great time because that’s when we really delve into the data. And we probably spent about $2 to $3 million on investible grade data, where I can tell you, community to community, what they need, what are their productive uses, how much do they pay for energy, would they even use solar? And we went down to the ground level and that was invaluable.

If we hadn’t spent that $2 or $3 million, we wouldn’t have got the money from the World Bank. Because they put us to a path where we were saying, “Well, if we get $500 million, this is exactly where we’re going to put it.” And it just changes things. Obviously, there are whole host of other things that you have to do, but it just changes the perspective when people know that you have the correct data and you can back it up.

And then, from the data, you can then show your regulator that this is why you have to sign off on this mini good regulation, because I now have the data. And this is why you have to be able to tell people what happens when the grid comes, and you really plot that in there and show, “This is where the grid is. The grid might come in six years. Do you still want to build this?” If you don’t, you want to interconnect it with the [inaudible]. So, that data is really, really critical.

Another data point that I feel we don’t collect enough is what people do once they have energy. So, before and after. And I spend a lot of time on there. So, with the SMEs, I wanted to know if they’ve employed somebody else. What were they earning before? What are they earning now? Did they rent another shop? Which is another way to know that things are going well. So, there’s a whole host of things, but those datasets are also important, because when you’re going for more money, you can show the economic growth story.

And that should be what we are trying to get at. We shouldn’t look at vulnerable and poor people as poor people we are trying to help. These are people we are literally trying to get out of energy poverty, so they can stand on their own two feet. So, any data around there is really my thing, to explain to people that these people, they’re not there because they want to be poor. You’re not necessarily helping them. You’re doing what you should be doing by making sure at least they have the basic rights, which should be energy and water.

Audience 06: Thanks so much. You’ve mentioned the political will to do some of these things. So, to me, I think to many people, we see that as a huge barrier. How do you see the trajectory of a political will going forward? We see, certainly, the COVID got a lot of political will for money. How do you see energy transitions of the sort that you talked about faring in the arena of who gets the attention, who gets the money, and what can help your arena get more of the attention it needs?

Damilola Ogunbiyi: I think, for energy access to be seen as sexy as climate would be the first thing on my list, because it’s not. And for some reasons, people don’t even put the connection, when energy is so important to climate. And I think that’s why the term energy transition seems to be working a lot better. And there’s political on two levels, I guess you mean. First from the developing countries, or at least the G7, to recognize that it’s beyond coal. That coal is really important, and I work on coal decommissioning, by the way, but there are countries that don’t even have anything. So, how do you even get them to that point, so you don’t have to come back in 20 other years to transition that.

It’s the best opportunity, right now, if you don’t have enough of something. And in terms of a financial opportunity, Africa is one of the few continent that’s going to need more power. So, all these things you’re building with panels and inverters and batteries, it’s only there that would probably need it when everybody else has transitioned. So, I think salience is an opportunity.

And then, on the whole level, which is in the developing countries, explaining to them that energy is critical for anything to work, even politically. I think their frustration is probably my frustration when I was in that level, where you just keep on waiting for the donors. And there’s a four year cycle. I don’t care who it is. If you had an agency, you feel that pressure. You could have come in as a techno grad, but you feel that pressure. You’re already in year three and you can’t show anything on ground because all you’ve been doing is paperwork.

And I guess the elephant in the room, then, nobody tells you that, when you are dealing with these large loans, no one gives you a checklist. So, you get something done and they come back and say, “You haven’t done this.” And then you do it, and then they come back and say, “You haven’t done that.” At some point, they told us to pass a law, and that’s when I was like, “Look, you could have told me two years ago. It takes about two and a half years to pass a law in my country. You can’t do this halfway through the time.”

And that’s another thing I’m trying to push with a lot of the DFIs. Let the country know. Let them decide, but don’t take them on this pathway where you just keep on changing the goal post. And then when things fail, you say, “Oh, it’s a country.” No, it’s not always the country. It’s the fact that you keep on changing things. The country has its own issues, by the way. I’m not trying to say countries are perfect, but it’s the whole global architecture of giving concessionary loans or grants to developing countries has to have a fundamental shift for this to work.

Audience 07: Thank you so much for the great presentation. My name is [inaudible]. I am from Malawi. I was born and raised in a village without electricity or running water. So, this subject is very touching to the core. I’m a student here. I’m a graduate student here in the master’s degree in development engineering.

I have two questions. The first question revolves around the empowering women, especially rural women. Just based on my experience, most of the technology that comes to Africa or to the villages end up in the hands of men, and most of the time, it’s not used to uplift the household. It’s used to uplift an individual. In your approach to electrify Africa, have you put any effort in trying to work with women in cooperatives, so that the electrification does not come, leaving women behind. That is my first question.

My second question revolves around the Ukraine-Russia war. There’s a lot of panic in the world that food prices are going to go up. Food prices are going to go up. And most of the time, the reason we are giving is because of fertilizer that comes from oil. And we know that is not even sustainable. I wonder if there’s any discussion in the United Nations to encourage some of the alternative methods of growing food, such as organic way of growing food, particularly in Africa where the prices of fertilizer is just very, very unbearable, and going through fertilizer is not going to solve the problem. Thank you.

Damilola Ogunbiyi: Okay. I’ll start with the second question. For about four years now, there’s been a big push of just rethinking how agriculture works. Because Ukraine just showed us the key man, key country risk involved, but there is a big push. And I’m not a food person, so please bear with me, but my FAO colleagues are saying that takes a 10 year transformation that is happening. So, it’s not just as easier as, “Okay, Ukraine, can’t supply wheat. This is the person that’s going to start producing it.” It is a process and it’s something they are looking at.

However, like you said, you are right. It’s not that there’s not enough food, it’s that people are also hoarding food and things where they are, and it not being distributed. That is what we are finding now. But why this time is actually more scary is just how close to famine we are in a lot of these countries. [Inaudible], They can’t afford fertilizer, or they can’t afford a lot of these different things. And that is a very, very scary notion. And that’s what we’re working on, the relationship between in energy, food and finance.

So, we are not doing what we always do and take things in silos, and food people just deal with food and energy people just deal energy and finance people. Because you can’t do that in this case. You all have to work together, and I think, in a few weeks, we will be able to share with you some data, some heat maps and some things, so we are actually telling the global and international organizations, but also the G7 that they have to do, and some policy decisions they have to do now.

In terms of women, just like data, I don’t think anyone who knows me will know I’m obsessed with women. But it’s not just about empowering women in the rural communities, which I’ll talk about. It’s making sure women are in the input for good. So, women have to be the ones doing these projects. Sustainable and decentralized energy, or clean energy, is one of the few things that you can get a 50/50 split.

In my career, it’s more about just training a lot of STEM students to actually work. So, I train for employment. I don’t train for training. I go and ask, especially in my previous role, all the many great guys and stuff, “Who do you need? When do you need it by? And if I train them, will you employ them?” It sounds very crude, but it really is that simple.

Also, in the program I ran in Nigeria, I insisted that, if you can’t show me at least 40% of women in your workforce that wasn’t admin, then you would not get access to the subsidy. And you’d be surprised how many people can find women once you do that. All of a sudden, they can find women to employ. But these are things I just want to stress that these are the things that people feel they don’t have power to do, but they do. Just say to let someone tell you why you are doing it, and let them get in trouble.

In terms of the rural communities, I think you’re right. But I do believe, at least in West Africa, it’s shifting. Like I said, in my previous role, this one time I tested 25 sewing machines because tailoring was what people were doing, though I knew there were a million female tailors in certain things, we are focusing more on productive use, with a really, really big push with microfinancing for female SMEs, as well, in rural communities.

So, there’s a lot going on. Is it enough? No. And that’s why I’m, like I say, I’m totally against this tier zero, tier one. Because then it’s light, and then does affect the individual. But by tier four, it affects the entire family. And what you tend to see is that women operate just outside their homes when they also have sustainable energy, especially even the agriculture. They’re doing drying, they’re doing something. They’re definitely using their homes as their shops. So, that is happening increasingly, as well.

And for some reason, that’s also making the men comfortable because they’re still in the [crosstalk] realm, but the biggest thing we can do for women, the biggest thing, especially on continent, is to provide clean cooking. You’re going to say four and a half hours of the woman’s day, but more importantly, what is really is scary is the reduction in gender-based violence. There’s so many threats just going from the home to get the fuel wood. One in seven women get raped. There’s some really horrible stats, but even at home, there’s a risk of being beaten by your own spouse if food is not ready on time. And these are things that we just take for granted, and it’s these women that are actually suffering. So, that’s why clean cooking is so, so important.

Isha Ray: We are very much coming to the end of our evening, but I see Lynn [crosstalk] an easy question because [inaudible].

Audience 08: Oh, no. I actually just wanted to ask, I was curious about your opinion on how African countries can leverage power within convening parties, such as the United Nations, and what, in your role, you’ve seen as the short falls of convening parties, such as the United Nations, and providing an equitable environment for that exchange to happen. And at the beginning, you also said that you would share a funny story about Power Africa that changed your view. And if you still want to share it, I want to hear it, but [inaudible] That’s fine. Anyway, thank you.

Damilola Ogunbiyi: First, I don’t think every country should be relating with the U.N. if you don’t have to. I run the biggest program in Africa, I never spoke to anyone in the U.N. So, I want to bring that forward. But I do believe the U.N. has the responsibility to make sure global action is needed on situations where we say it is critical, where we say it’s crisis. I think the U.N. has the responsibility to make sure that, when people are talking about climate, they’re understanding what energy needs they are as well. I think it’s important the U.N. to keep saying that, while we are doing all this stuff is great, but we can’t leave a billion people behind.

And then, I guess the most important statistics is, if we don’t achieve this by 2030, which is not looking likely, we can’t achieve our climate goals. And again, I don’t think people put that together when they’re talking, and I think that is our responsibility to do that, and to be pro poor, to think about the poorest countries at the same time. And with Power Africa, I think I might have dropped the hint, but I was just saying, I was just going to talk about what it took to get Power Africa, I don’t know if it was that funny, to fund all these Nigerians to come back home.

It’s not often that you have an organization ready to almost break protocol because there are budgets in place and there are line items and the things that they set out in DC, and they have to implement on ground. But understand that this is just so important, and we can make so much impact, and it can go so wrong. But they’re willing to stick their necks out. So, again, I feel development and aid can work, but they have to be listening to the countries, instead of deriving something thousands of miles away from the country, and then getting upset when it’s not implemented in the country, like really getting upset and then calling everybody. “They’re not doing this.” And like, but you didn’t even speak to the country.

So, we’re doing an integrated energy plan in Malawi right now on clean cooking and stuff. And Malawi government was like, “We don’t want normal electrification. We want clean cooking.” So, we do clean cooking. It’s not a big deal. We came in with a plan, but that’s what they want. So, that’s what, most likely, they’ll be able to set up policy and implement. That’s what you do. And so, that’s how I’ve lived my life. Understanding people’s needs and trying to make sure that we do it in the most effective manner.

Isha Ray: Well, that’s a wonderful way to end. We want to thank our speaker, again, for this wonderful talk. We can’t thank you enough for joining us today, Damilola, and thank you for being an engaging and wonderful audience. I’m really happy that annual lecture is back in person, and I hope to see many of you again next year. Thank you.

[Music: “Silver Lanyard” by Blue Dot Sessions]

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