Africa rising in stature at Middle East Energy show

Written by
27 Feb 2023
Africa rising in stature at Middle East Energy show

Mega event in Dubai has seen a growing presence of African buyers and thought leaders as the continent seeks equipment, technology and ideas for its energy transitions; anticipating a pan-African event in 2024

Middle East Energy will gather some 25,000 people interacting with more than 940 exhibitors in five major product sectors, when it convenes at Dubai World Trade Centre for three days in March. MEE combines equipment and technology expertise with two conferences and numerous technical sessions featuring 140 speakers across three days.

The conferences and technical sessions will offer the ideas that give context to the impressive range of products on display. They will make MEE a kind of melting pot where people can learn from each other.

While the event is called Middle East Energy, there will be no shortage of attention on Africa. More than 5,000 delegates are coming from the continent, some 20% of the total.  

“The event’s expansion has been driven to a large degree by Africa,” says Azzan Mohamed, Exhibition Director. “It’s taken on much more of an African perspective as the African presence has grown at MEE.”

An African transition

MEE’s theme, guiding the region through the energy transition, will likely resonate with the many delegates coming from Africa. It is perhaps there where the urgency, and the difficulty, of progress toward energy transitions is being most felt.

Yet transitions are occurring even as African leaders justifiably demand the right to develop their natural gas resources to support their countries’ economic progress. They do so in a context in which Sub Saharan Africa, with one-sixth of the world’s population, emits just 3% of the world’s carbon emissions. 

Still it’s happening, even if in small steps. In Africa, what appear as incremental steps are showing a gathering momentum.

E&U recently reported that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned his country’s largest grid-connected solar power plant, a 10 MW facility in Kano state. While it is small in a country with approximately 6,000 MW generating capacity, with nearly half of its people lacking power supply, the Kano project is nevertheless important. 

Perhaps half of Nigeria’s power is self-generated with small diesel and petrol generators. Yet entreprenuers are filling the gaps with innovative applications of new technologies to extend renewable power. With proper financing in place, the possibility of replicating the Kano project in large numbers is clear.

E&U has reported on groundbreaking projects in Togo, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, and elsewhere, where developers are just beginning to build mid-size renewable power plants.

Finance is critical, as seen in South Africa. E&U reported on a significant milestone in the implementation of the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), which occurred at COP27 last fall when France and Germany signed loan agreements to each extend €300 million in concessional financing to South Africa to support the country’s efforts to reduce its reliance on coal. This JETP is seen as a blueprint for other coal-dependent African nations to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, with discussion of something similar for Senegal.

Kenya, for its part, is rapidly emerging as Africa’s renewable energy hub, championing a net zero by 2030 initiative. In 2021, 81% of Kenya’s electricity generation came from the low-carbon sources of geothermal, hydro, wind, and solar power. The country hosts the enormous Lake Turkana wind farm, the largest in Africa.

At COP27, Kenyan President William Ruto used his country’s clean energy credibility to speak for all of Africa. He described the suffering caused by climate change while calling on developed nations to invest in Africa to unlock the vast potential for growing renewable power across the continent.

Anticipating Africa

As MEE returned as a live event last year it began attracting key stakeholders from Africa. This year the African presence has expanded.  

“A lot of international companies see MEE as a platform,” says Azzan Mohamed, “and they see new markets opening in East Africa, in West Africa, and throughout central and southern Africa.”

At the same time, he says, African governments are exploring and planning for renewable energy at an earlier stage, which increases their need for solutions.

“We see African interest growing in MEE’s critical backup power sector, in its T&D sector, and other areas,” he says.  

While high level ministers will attend, representatives of utilities and distribution companies, the people awarding projects, will also be there. They’re coming from Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

MEE will engage with African delegates in numerous ways. Its Strategic Conference includes discussions devoted to Nigeria and East Africa.

In addition to a networking hub, a special ‘African suite’ on the show floor will serve as a kind of pavilion for government representatives and hosted buyers from the African energy sector to interact and reach agreements. And, in a more private setting, a new CEO Forum will facilitate high-level discussion among industry leaders.

Meanwhile a focus group will be organized to get feedback from African leaders, anticipating the announcement of a new conference in Africa next year. This is to be a kind of ‘African MEE’ in Rwanda in 2024.

Azzan Mohamed is optimistic about the prospects for such a pan-African event held in Rwanda, a country that straddles east and central Africa.

“Kigali is a host city for the region, in a role similar to Dubai,” he says. “The government is committed to a zero-corruption policy, with visa on arrival from many countries.”   

News about a new event in Africa will be forthcoming, which Nigeria Energy will occur this year in September.


Please join us during 7 – 9 March at Dubai World Trade Center.

Delegate tickets are available.

Agendas for the Strategic Conference, Intersolar Conference, and Technical Sessions are posted on the MEE Website.

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