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EPA Summary Report Africa 2013

5 Introduction Although Africa has invested in conventional power sources for decades, the situation remains problematic and is characterised by challenges such as unreliable power supply, low access levels, low capacity utilisation and availability, and high transmission and distribution losses. To tackle the current challenges of climate change and to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that two billion people require access to modern energy services by 2015. Since approximately 800 million of these people live in sub-Saharan Africa, they are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change despite having contributed the least to global warming. As Africa’s energy currently comes from fossil fuels (oil and coal) and traditional biomass, which have relatively high emissions and other negative consequences, including health problems, it has become a pressing matter to develop the continent’s ability to exploit its clean energy potential as its energy demands grow. Research shows that Africa has vast clean energy resources and that these are largely unexploited. However, the ability of African countries to exploit their clean energy potential and join the globally developing clean energy markets will significantly depend on their ability to access and deploy the relevant technologies. Although many relevant clean energy technologies (CET) already exist or are in development, they are not yet widely available in Africa for a range of reasons, including high costs. The development of the Technology Mechanism by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has focused attention on technology transfer as the key to wider use of CETs in the climate change debate. The discussions about the ownership and transfer of know-how in exploiting clean energy have heightened the interest in – and the misconceptions and controversy surrounding – the patent system. Technical innovation and hence the associated legal rights are key factors in the efforts to find adaptation and mitigation strategies for dealing with climate change. The impact of the patent system is much the same in the CET field as in any other, encouraging innovation, dissemination of key technological knowledge, investments in both R&D and exploitation of inventions, as well as supporting wider implementation of technology through licensing and technology transfer. However, over the last few years, a variety of reports have shown that we do not fully understand the relationship between patent rights and how the development and diffusion of CETs influences mitigation and adaptation strategies, and that we therefore have insufficient evidence to take responsibility for important policy decisions relating to patent rights, technology and climate change. Following a methodical step-by-step approach, the present report empirically analyses the role of patents to date in the potential development and transfer of CET and relevant adaptation technologies in Africa. By mapping the continent’s clean energy potential and analysing the policies and legal framework for patent protection in Africa, as well as patenting patterns, the report helps to understand how the patent system supports technology transfer, and also how that system could be optimised to facilitate the development and transfer of CET in Africa. Geothermal hot springs by Lake Bogoria, Great Rift Valley, Kenya 5