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Government launching first African sustainability research hub

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A new African sustainability research hub that is expected to make a contribution towards the promotion of low-carbon economic development has been launched in Kenya.

"A low-carbon economic development path in Africa is able to deliver clean and sustainable energy to millions of energy-poor people across the continent," Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources said in the capital Nairobi.

She noted that the hub is to help drive a productive green economic expansion for the continent and deliver higher sustainable standards of living well into the future.

The new hub is part of the Pathways to Sustainability Global Consortium, which is a group of six global research hubs located in South Asia, China, Europe, Latin America, North America, and now Africa to tackle sustainability challenges facing the world.

The six sustainability hubs are linked through the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS) Center at the University of Sussex, Britain.

The hub, the first STEPS Hub in sub-Saharan Africa, is a huge contribution that will bring together researchers from across the continent to work collaboratively on research promoting pro-poor low carbon economic development.

Wakhungu observed that providing access to energy, especially for the poor, in Kenya and in other African countries remains a challenge.

According to a 2012 United Nations report, the percentage of Africans classed as living in extreme poverty is 47 per cent with 620 million people lacking access to grid electricity.

Energy demand in Africa is, however, expected to grow by 80 percent by the year 2040.

"Power supply has not kept pace with high rates of growth, and energy demand constantly outweighs supply across the continent," said Wakhungu.

According to the Executive Director of the African Center for Technology Studies, Cosmas Ochieng, Africa has sufficient resource to meet the energy needs once they are tapped.

Participants at the meeting observed that innovative agendas do not always have to be set from outside the continent adding that all development strategic plans has to be set within the continent.

They noted that ideas from within Africa need to be tailored to African contexts for them to succeed.

Ian Scoones, the director of the ESRC STEPS Center at the University of Sussex, said political debate was needed about the best ways to achieve low carbon transformation.

"We want to challenge the idea that there’s a single way to achieve low carbon transition," he said.


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