Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 July 2020:
Last Saturday, Dr Kandeh Yumkella, a member of parliament for Kambia district, joined participants at a virtual conference including representatives from international organizations, public and private sectors, and civil society to discuss the devastating consequences of COVID-19, including the off-grid electricity generating sector.
“COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of the healthcare infrastructure in many countries. It has also accentuated the link between energy services and effective healthcare delivery, access to water and sanitation,” he said, in his opening keynote remarks to over a thousand participants at the two-day Energy Access COVID-19 Relief Summit.
Speaking about the economic impact of COVID-19, Yumkella MP said that the off-grid sector has not been spared either. “The sector is experiencing a decrease in investments in renewable projects and poses a challenge for small and medium enterprises and energy companies – specifically their viability and profitability,” he underscored. There is also the impact on the demand for energy services by industries and small businesses as well as the inability of customers to pay for energy services.
As participants discussed opportunities and challenges for the energy sector, Yumkella offered a few suggestions for rebuilding a sustainable and resilient sector that he stressed must be backed by the right narrative to gain political attention from the right people.
“Ensure practical measures to safeguard the gains we have made in achieving access over the last decade. Ensure access to electricity remains a political priority in developing countries, especially in COVID-19 recovery plans and strategies. Organize a strong lobby to ring-fence or increase donor funds for renewable and off-grid energy projects and programmes. Advocate and lobby for direct financial assistance for off-grid companies and subsidies for off-grid consumers especially in mini-grid communities. Push for innovations in public policy to build back better for resilience”.
Yumkella noted that despite these challenges, he is hopeful that the sector will not be neglected as he is aware of several taskforces that are working hard to ensure the energy sector is included in recovery plans.
Specifically, he mentioned the work of the IRENA – UNDP review of INDCs, the Europe-Africa Alliance in cooperation with Friends of Europe, the SEforAll Compact Summit in 2021, the One Sun-One World – One Grid – an Indian initiative under the Solar Alliance among others.
Founder of the Energy Nexus Network (TENN), Yumkella represents Constituency 062 – Samu Chiefdom in Northern Sierra Leone. Prior to his election as a Member of Parliament, he was UN under-under-secretary general. He holds the unique distinction of being the first Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and founding CEO of the same organization. He served as director-general of the UN Industrial Development Organization for two four-year terms.
The summit was organized by the Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) and GOGLA – the voice of the Off-Grid Solar Energy Industry with support from GET.invest and in partnership with AMDA, ESMAP, GDC, SEforALL and the Clean Cooking Alliance.
In another development, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella last Thursday spoke in parliament during the debate on the Public Order Act of 1965, where he also called for a change in the law that debars Sierra Leoneans with dual citizenship from contesting elections.
This is what he said:
“On behalf of the NGC, I wish to state our full support for the repeal of the 1965 Public Order Act which is before us. We commend the former Ministers of Information who all made efforts for over two decades to repeal the public order act, including Dr. Julius Spencer, Hon. I.B. Kargbo, and Hon. Mohamed Bangura. We also commend the former and current presidents of SLAJ for their diligence and persistence.
“It is always a good time to do the right thing, so we congratulate the current minister of information and the government for their strong political will in taking the final steps for the repeal process. However, the public needs safeguards to protect hard earned reputations of citizens of the country.
“Many of us have been victims of false publications and articles in newspapers. Character assassination is tantamount to reputational terrorism. We all need protection. We want to see these safeguards in the new IMC Act whilst at the same time guaranteeing free expression.
“Finally, some colleagues have referred to this government as “talk-and-do” since the repeal of this Act was one of the manifesto promises. So, I take this opportunity to remind government and honourable members that all our political parties also promised in our manifesto that we will get rid of the “two-sim” discrimination of our constitution, and that we will guarantee that at least 30 percent of parliamentary seats will be reserved for women.
“Therefore, I call on all of us, to move ahead quickly to pass an inclusive governance bill to address the ‘two-sim’ issue and equal opportunity for women.”