The beginning of 2009 focused on strategising and developing a work plan for the entire year. It quickly became apparent that a significant portion of the following 12 months would be spent on advocacy to promote the African bioenergy industry in Europe and throughout Africa itself to dispel rumours concerning Food vs. Fuel, the effect of the financial crisis on biofuels in Africa, and the feasibility of accessing large markets like the European Union, as well as promoting all the benefits that bioenergy can bring in terms of real investment, job creation, and building infrastructure. In February, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States held their first ever consultations with the European Commission under Article 12 of the Cotonou Agreement—an opportunity for the 79 ACP countries to bring forward complaints about trade barriers European legislation imposed against the ACP. Among the five topics at hand were biofuels, and PANGEA’s Secretary General was asked to represent the ACP during these consultations. The event marked a step forward in PANGEA-ACP relations as well as began to open the eyes of the European Commission that the ACP would not be left unguarded in areas where it did not have in-house expertise. The Secretary General was invited to speak at three different conferences, in Mozambique, in South Africa and at World Biofuels Markets in Brussels, which for a year-old organisation shows how well placed and well versed it is in the heart of the major issues. These presentations focused on current biofuel production, opportunities for investment and potential for export into other markets. In April, PANGEA was invited to host a side event at the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) held in Prague, Czech Republic. This event focused on sensitising both ACP and EU parliamentarians on biofuels in general and how the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive would affect ACP economies through trade. PANGEA plans to hold a follow-up workshop when the JPA meets again in Tenerife, Spain in March 2010.
After more than six months of organising, the PANGEA team temporarily moved its operations to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for 3 weeks in June to finalise preparations for the 2nd Annual African Bioenergy Conference, which was held in the prestigious United Nations Conference Centre in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines and Energy. As it was PANGEA’s first experience in hosting a conference, it is quite impressive that the conference was opened by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, H.E. Ato Meles Zenawi, and the Ethiopian Minister of Mines and Energy, H.E. Ato Alemayehu Tegenu. There were more than 250 participants from all over Africa, Europe, Brazil and the US, which at the time was the largest biofuels conference in Africa. Throughout the three weeks in Addis Ababa and certainly during the conference, PANGEA staff was able to meet with numerous ministry officials, the European Commission delegation to Ethiopia and the African Union, private investors, and NGOs to discuss the most pressing issues facing bioenergy in Africa. Ethiopia is committed to energy security and economic development and sees bioenergy as the path to achieve these goals. PANGEA will continue to work in Ethiopia with our members and strategic partners. Upon returning to Brussels, PANGEA was invited to a pre-consultation with the European Commission on how it should tackle the sensitive issues of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) in the Renewable Energy Directive. PANGEA participated with verbal and written comments during the pre-consultation while the Secretary General was invited to represent the Government of Mozambique during consultations with non-EU countries.
Although things seemed quiet in Brussels over the summer, PANGEA didn’t pause for a second and hit the ground running on 1 September well prepared for the coming months. The Secretary General travelled from Stockholm, Sweden to Nairobi, Kenya to talk about food and fuel co-production as well as opportunities for regional market development, while our project manager presented a paper on bioenergy opportunities at a South-South development conference in Paris. In October, PANGEA partnered with Green Power Conferences, the world’s largest bioenergy conference organising company, to host Bioenergy Markets West Africa in Accra, Ghana. The conference was a great success and welcomed more than 110 participants from over 25 countries. The theme was “Enabling sustainable biopower, biogas & biofuels development in West Africa”, and as a result of the conference, nearly 30 African participants were inspired to create the African Bioenergy Association as a way to move forward and keep the momentum moving on a continent-wide basis.
In November, PANGEA welcomed Novozymes, one the largest global producers of enzymes used in the production of biofuels. As a major player in biofuels with a distinct focus on sustainability, PANGEA looks forward to working with Novozymes in bringing technology transfer to the African industry. In December, the Secretary General presented on a panel at the closing conference for COMPETE—an EU-funded research consortium looking at bioenergy opportunities in Africa. To wrap up the year, PANGEA staff travelled to Sudan just as the first shipment of ethanol produced from sugarcane was exported to the EU. This is quite an accomplishment and a sign of things to come as Sudan becomes the largest exporter of sugarcane ethanol in the region. After a site visit to the ethanol factory and sugarcane fields at Kenana Sugar Company, about 250km south-east of Khartoum, PANGEA is planning to maintain its focus on Sudan, which may include more conferences and workshops in the future and advising Sudanese companies looking to invest in bioenergy.