May 24, 2017

Speaking at ‘Strengthening International Solar Alliance & Africa-India RE Partnerships’.

Chairman of the CII Committee on Renewable Energy and Founder Chairman of ReNew Power Ventures, Mr. (inaudible) Marcelin Cisse, Director General, Aid Strategy and Coordination, Ministry of Planning and Development, Republic of Côte d’ivoire. Other senior dignitaries on the desk from the African Development Bank, dignitaries from the Government of India, from several African states, ladies and gentlemen!

Indo-African partnership is not based on strategic intent, but on historical and cultural ties and shared values and goals, where the people of both these continents — the African continent and the Indian sub-continent — go back into history for thousands of years. It is reported that long back, Africa and India were united by land, now we are separated by the seas, but united by a common purpose – a purpose of fighting poverty, a purpose of promoting progress, justice, peace and prosperity for the people of both regions. In fact, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the father of our nation and the son of the soil from the state of Gujarat, came from Africa and became Mahatma, the man who brought freedom to our country. Nelson Mandela took forward this invaluable legacy.

In fact, India was also a key anti-apartheid voice and anti-colonial voice over the years in the African sub-continent. And, therefore this common shared desire for ensuring social justice for our people, after centuries of exploitation by foreign powers, can best be achieved by greater cooperation, greater economic and people to people ties. Because, what we can understand, the shared pain of our history, what we can understand as the shared concerns that poverty brings to nations and the development of nations is very difficult for any other country to appreciate and understand.

In fact, on several international platforms I have seen a tendency to, almost gloat over the fact that some nations have provided, a small thing like a solar lamp to villages in Africa. In today’s day and age, when the world is connected through internet, when the world is connected through communication of television and radio where electricity is no more a luxury; it is almost a necessity. And, where the Sustainable Development Goal Number 7 is talking of affordable and quality energy access for every global citizen by 2030, I don’t think we can rest on our achievement of having connected a poor household and remote village in Africa just by a solar lamp.

We ourselves have a lot of remote areas, remote villages, citizens living on the top of mountains or in dense forests who over seven decades have not been benefitted by electricity. But, we are not looking at keeping them deprived for long. The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India has a vision that by 2022, when India turns 75 years of independence, every home in this country should be connected to electricity, should have the benefit of electricity. On a more personal note, I am trying to do it much faster. The entire Government of India, along with the states, is working to see can we achieve this by 2019, why even 2022? Because, after all, every single day that we keep that child in that remote village deprived of electricity, is one more day gone in the life of a poor person’s future, in the ability of that family to join the national mainstream and get a better quality of life, meet the aspirations of those people.

And, therefore, even in very remote areas, where the grid cannot reach well in time to take electricity, we are looking at providing a holistic solar energy solution, where we will have sufficient capacity in the home system, to not only power, may be 5 LED lights which can ensure there is brightness and light through the whole evening, a ceiling fan — and the lights and fan we give along with the solar system — a battery backup which can ensure 8 hours of supply even when the sun is not there. In fact, we are also adding a 24 inch LED television; because we believe that it is the nation’s debt of gratitude, a payback time for these citizens who have been deprived of electricity for so many years. We want them to be connected not just through mobile technology, but also to learn about what is happening in the world. We are looking at taking digital to every nook and corner of the country, so that the children even in the remotest parts of India can enjoy the fruits of what is happening in the world of modern technology.

And, I think that is the vision that India wishes to offer to the people of Africa, to the African nations, and through this engagement, where we are looking at strengthening the International Solar Alliance, and the Africa-India Renewable Energy Partnership, we believe that the learnings that India has had over the last three years, in rapidly scaling up our renewable energy capacity, in rapidly reaching out to those remote villages where electricity was never there for seven decades, in ensuring household connectivity so that every home in the country benefits from electricity, largely through the electricity grid, but even in remote areas through off-grid solutions.

And, we would love to share our experiences to work together with the African continent and all the countries of Africa, to take the benefits of modern technology, to take the benefits of low-cost deployment of this technology on a larger scale to the remotest corners of Africa, to the poorest of poor of Africa, furthering the dream and the vision of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay, a great thinker of his times who over 50 years ago had articulated the philosophy that the nation’s resources should first be used to serve the poorest of the poor; the person at the bottom of the pyramid. And, taking that forward the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision is that our programmes, our learnings, our technologies, even our finances, when they go to Africa, when they are focused towards development of the African countries, should work to serve the poorest of the poor, so that people in Africa also can enjoy the shared prosperity that I believe is the right of every global citizen in this modern day and age.

In fact, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Secretary General of the UN who is of Egyptian origin had commented that, ‘Cooperative enterprises provide the organisational means whereby a significant proportion of humanity is able to take into its own hands the tasks of creating productive employment, overcoming poverty and achieving social integration.’ And, I think providing electricity to every citizen of Africa will become the fulcrum around which we can ensure holistic development of the citizens of Africa. Nelson Mandela had once said, ‘after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.’ But, the choice is of all of us, whether we are going to rest with our achievements in our own country, or we are going to take that to other areas which need the same level of development? And, I think India and the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has made that choice, he believes that renewable energy, clean energy is important for sustainable lifestyles, for sustainable growth, for protecting the planet and for leaving behind for our children a better planet to live in. Because, after all, we are all trustees who have inherited the earth only to make it better for our next generation, not to mess it up any further.

And, in that spirit of cooperation and trusteeship, India would like to offer its partnership. And, the African Development Bank has been very cooperative and has agreed to be a partner in this effort to engage with Africa, to expand our partnership to industrialise and take electricity to every part of Africa. The Ministry of Finance led by Mr Arun Jaitley, who was here yesterday, has earmarked a significant portion of the Line of Credit that is being offered to African Nations. The $10 billion Line of Credit that was finalised in the last Indo-African Summit, almost 15 to 20% of that, that is about billion and half to 2 billion, have been earmarked to help the African nations improve their grid connectivity, to reach power to remote areas, but also largely to support taking power into remote areas through off-grid and renewable energy sources.

We have had some very good successes in bringing down the cost of renewable energy. In fact, today our renewable energy cost is below grid parity. It is cheaper than thermal power for us to generate solar or wind power in India. And, we are looking at expanding our own renewable energy capacity — as was just now shown on the film — to never before levels. India has embarked, possibly, on the world’s largest scale up of renewable energy. Because, as Prime Minister Modi says, the environment and protecting the environment is an article of faith for him personally and for the people of India. It is not something that America or any other country, the western world is telling us to do. It is something that India believes in, intrinsically. It is something that comes naturally to every Indian, particularly, when we look at India’s history, where the environment always was nurtured, where the environment was almost revered, over our 5000-year history, over our mythology. We have even prayed to the Wind God. We have even prayed to the Sun God. We have even respected our rivers, our forests.

And, I think taking that legacy forward, India plans to roll-out renewable energy on a very fast-track mission mode. And, we would very much like to be a part of that development process, take our experiences and our industry to work in Africa, not with sympathy. I believe, this is not something which comes out of sympathy. Sympathy is something which is drawn out when there is a difference between the thinking of two people, there can be sympathy between one and the other. For India, this is a partnership out of empathy. It is a partnership where two countries and the people of two regions work as brothers and sisters, work together as one family, where we work together knowing our own history and understanding what is happening in the African continent.

And, with that understanding, with that appreciation of the ground reality, I believe India is best poised to be able to play a very important role. We have had our own engagement through the Solar Mamas who have been trained in solar fabrication, installation and other aspects of solar energy under Government of India sponsored programmes. We have had an experience to take the Barefoot Women Vocational Training College to the Zanzibar Islands of Tanzania and other countries in Africa. And, I believe now we should look at scaling up this engagement, be it in skill development, be it in expanding your micro-grids or even utility scale renewable energy programmes, be it in introducing the most modern technologies in Africa, be it in helping you to assemble in the initial stage and finally manufacture solar and wind generating equipments. And, my belief is that when we work together, we reach much farther. When we work alone, there is only so far that we can go. But, when we work together as a team, we can do much more and have exponential growth. And, to enable that growth we have created the International Solar Alliance as a platform where we can share experiences, as a platform for research and development, for technology sharing, as a platform which can help you create good financing models, which can help you raise the necessary finances to expand your clean energy and energy access programme.

And, I would urge all the countries of the African continent, to quickly join the International Solar Alliance, enjoy the fruits and benefits of this partnership through the International Solar Alliance platform. 15 African nations have already signed the ISA. I think it will help African countries to reduce their cost of renewable energy, to arrange for affordable finance at low-cost of finance. It will help get better and newer technologies to Africa, certainly leading to universal energy access for all the people of Africa, not by 2030 as envisaged under the SDG-7, but much earlier. Because, I believe the people of Africa, if they have to come out of the poverty trap, will have to first benefit from availability of low-cost, affordable, quality and reliable, adequate energy, adequate electricity. I believe this partnership under the aegis of the African Development Bank together with the Ministry of Finance in India and guided by the Ministry of Renewable Energy in India, together can become a game-changer, can take the African nations to the next step of development of economic development of industrialisation, much faster.

I invite all the African nations and I invite all the delegates from different nations in Africa to take this message of the International Solar Alliance to your countries, to the governments in your countries, engage with the ISA, join the ISA, ratify the treaty and become partner countries, member countries of the ISA, so that together we can make history, we can create a better further for the people of our countries.

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen, and thanks to the African Development Bank for organising this wonderful interaction.


Thank you very much.

Next Speech

May 23, 2017 Speaking at TIFAC Workshop, New Delhi

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