ADDIS ABABA/VIENNA, 5 December 2013 - Over 250 participants from 35 countries  have converged at the UN Economic Commission for Africa to participate at the global conference on Rural Energy Access as a follow up to the 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20.

Co-hosted by UN Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), UN Department of Social Affairs (UN-DESA), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and UN-Energy, the conference focuses on the nexus approach to sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Delivering his address via video-link, the Secretary-General's Special Representative & Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella, emphasized the important role that access to energy services plays in facilitating all aspects of development from job creation, education and health services provision, women's economic empowerment,  communication and business services development  in supporting economic growth.

In relation to rural development in particular, he underscored the crucial need for energy to support agricultural production, irrigation, food harvesting, transport and processing and for the provision of domestic energy services to support improved quality of life for Africa's rural population where 590 million people lack access to electricity and average rates of electrification are well below 40 percent limiting opportunities for development.

Susan McDade,  moderator of the high – panel on behalf of SEforALL where she leads the Country Action Programs underscored "the importance of anchoring the goal of sustainable energy for All in the post MDG development framework currently being negotiated in the United Nations."

Panelists on the "Leadership for Rural Energy Access: Africa and Sustainable Energy for All," included experts from the Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. Fatima Denton, the African Development Bank, Dr, Daniel Schroth, the Executive Director of the African Energy Commission, Dr. Hussein Elhag, the African Union, Dr. Philip Niyongabo and in representation of the host country government Mr. Gosaye Mengeste on behalf of the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy of Ethiopia.

The conference which sought to provide an opportunity to strengthen capacities on policy, technical and entrepreneurial approaches to rural energy access was accompanied by a technology exhibition showing many business based approaches to the provision of energy services for home, health sector, water pumping and other productive uses.

Special Advisor to the UNDP Administrator on the Post-2015 Development Agenda  Olav Kjorven,  also led a panel on the nexus approach to rural energy emphasizing links between education and energy, energy in humanitarian settings and energy and food security.