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Monica_55905 Nov 05

Spain: a reliable partner for harnessing Africa’s potential in renewable energy

Spain: a reliable partner for harnessing Africa’s potential in renewable energy image
An interview with María Peña. CEO of ICEX Spain Trade and Investment
ICEX Spain Trade and Investment is a State-Owned Enterprise that helps Spanish companies foster their business through foreign trade by offering expert advice and practical support. It also helps attract inward investment into Spain by showcasing the country’s offer and needs to international investors and by providing them with practical assistance.

How does ICEX observe the transition from the so-called 4.0 Industry to the 5th industrial revolution, characterized by focusing on issues related to sustainability?

Sustainability occupies a central and transversal position in ICEX's strategy, both at the level of internal procedures and in the programs and services that we make available to companies.

This relevance is based on the conviction that it is a fundamental element of the competitiveness of companies and, therefore, their chances of success in their internationalization projects.

The incorporation of ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) criteria makes companies more competitive in terms of efficiency, quality and loyalty of human resources and, very importantly, as we are seeing, resilience, since proximity to customers, Providers and regulators give them a better position to make decisions in changing and highly uncertain contexts such as the current one. We are beginning to see how it can even be a decisive element in accessing better financing conditions. From the point of view of demand, consumer preferences are increasingly inclined towards observing criteria related to sustainability.

In short, we see how the creation of social value generates a positive impact on the value of the company itself.

The correlation between Industry 4.0 and sustainability is very close. Digitization allows the provision of big data and artificial intelligence technological tools for measuring environmental impact, optimizing the efficiency of the production process or traceability of the value chain through blockchain technologies. In addition, digitization acts as a mechanism for inclusion, with such notable and important examples in Africa as mobile banking or e-health and e-learning solutions for the most remote areas.

What will be the impact of COVID on this Development?

COVID 19 is having a very profound impact on both digitization and sustainability.

Digitization and technology are making it possible to reduce the impact on economic activity that current restrictions have on many face-to-face activities. The companies that are best coping with this crisis are those whose processes were more automated and whose management and relationship with customers were more digitized.

The omnipresence of technology will be a reality in the configuration of the “new normal”.

It should also be noted that measures imposed to control COVID - 19 have generated a negative impact on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, both in those objectives more linked to social development, as well as those linked to the environment. However, the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities and individual and collective risks that we face and should become a catalyst for an acceleration of the commitments of governments and administrations for a more sustainable world, a commitment that, in its turn, Instead, push for a greater role for the private sector.

ICEX has organized a panel, which will take place on November 11, on renewable energy. What role will renewable energies play in all of the above?

Rethinking the way we generate and consume energy is essential for meeting the goals set by the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.

The energy sector in Africa, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, is in need of a boost. According to the African Development Bank, the rate of access to electricity in Africa is 40%, the lowest in the world, and this shortage of electricity compromises the economic and social performance of the continent. Renewable energies must play a central role in this drive, helping to diversify supply and universal and sustainable access to energy.

Spanish companies, starting from a leadership position worldwide in the installation and development of renewable energy projects, are also excellent partners of African governments and multilateral institutions that operate on the continent and are in an unbeatable position to contribute to this desired boost of renewable energies.

Spanish companies have demonstrated great leadership and technical competence in projects in Africa, with emblematic developments, such as the Ouarzazate complex, in Morocco, and reaching milestones as significant as being responsible for 80% of the wind energy generated in Egypt.

They have also proven flexibility and adaptability, such as the one exposed in the construction of the first power generation plant from biomass in Côte d'Ivoire and the largest in West Africa, taking advantage of the advantages of the area, reusing resources and favoring the circular economy, or the construction in Kenya of solar photovoltaic systems in 380 locations, many of them schools and health centers, in areas far from the country's distribution network.

In short, Spanish companies are being key to sustainable energy development on the continent, both in generation and accessibility.

On November 11, ICEX will be organizing a table about the role that renewable energies will play in building the African economy after the pandemic. Some of the best Spanish companies in the sector will participate in the panel. I invite you to participate.

How does ICEX support this process? 

The Secretary of State for Commerce, on which ICEX depends, has launched the so-called Africa Strategy, which aims to strengthen the competitive capacity of our companies in the region, with special attention to sectors with the capacity to carry and impact on Sustainable development goals, among which the energy sector could not be missing, and coordinate all efforts to strengthen the role of Spain and its companies as partners to achieve sustained, sustainable and inclusive growth in Africa.
ICEX's work tries to optimize the impact of other measures of the Secretary of State for Commerce related to financial issues, the elimination of trade barriers and the improvement of the business climate.

To do this, we work in three areas: business training and competitive intelligence; support for the participation of Spanish companies in international tenders and / or public-private investment programs and, finally, training of expert professionals in Africa.

To do this, we have a whole range of programs and services launched through the network of economic and commercial offices of Spain in Africa, deployed throughout the continent and which is reinforced as the presence of Spanish companies increases in the region.

Among the services we offer, the following should be noted:
  • Information services: from basic information on market access to personalized economic intelligence services (search for new commercials, market entry strategies, etc.). The uncertainty generated around COVID and aggravated by mobility limitations, have reinforced the value of such information, as well as the role of our commercial offices and the logistical support services they offer.
  • The objective of the technical conferences on projects is to bring business opportunities to Spanish companies while improving the knowledge that African agents in the sector have of their capacities, creating links between the parties through greater mutual knowledge. This knowledge is reinforced with reverse missions and Business Meetings.
  • We also work intensively with international financial organizations, the main sources of financing for strategic projects in Africa, through a series of instruments, among which the Multilateral Partnership for Development Days stand out. Partnerships serve a double purpose; reduce the perception of risk of some of these projects for Spanish companies and emphasize our strategy of alignment with the 2030 Agenda, as sustainability is a prerequisite for such financing. The Partnerships are the multilateral mirror of the previously mentioned Business Meetings.
  • The strategy of taking advantage of the opportunities that arise in the field of multilateral financing is complemented with tools for training, information and dissemination of business opportunities and promotion and networking, being.
  • The 2030 Agenda and the promotion of new, more inclusive and sustainable ways of doing business is also key to our strategy. In this sense, the Impact + program stands out, through which ICEX has begun a line of work focused on identifying sustainable and inclusive business opportunities that meet the needs of relatively low-income population segments in emerging countries and with high growth potential. Africa is a priority region in the program, with Morocco as the pilot country. Since 2019 and through the economic and commercial offices of the Spanish Embassy in Casablanca and Rabat, the IMPACT + program has supported inclusive business projects promoted by Spanish companies and local business partners in sectors such as telemedicine and textiles.
  • No strategy can be sustainable over time if it does not have adequate professionals for its implementation in both the public and private sectors. In the field of training, the internationalization scholarship program stands out, through which we put human resources trained in the field of internationalization at the disposal of companies, with the possibility that scholarship recipients carry out the second phase of the scholarship working in companies or international organizations operating in Africa.

All of the above is also complemented by our promotional activity at fairs, congresses and forums, as is the case with this Africa Energy Forum, with which we are always pleased to collaborate as a meeting forum. I invite readers to come, virtually, to the table on the 11th to meet some of the companies with the most advanced developments and projects in renewable energy.

Join ICEX panel, "The Role of Renewables in Post-COVID Economic Recovery" on November 11th, register here