Ep16: Dr Kandeh K. Yumkella "Sustainable energy for all"


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How did Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella impact the Sustainable Development Goals? How has he influenced energy's position in development? Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella – known as KKY in his native Sierra Leone - is a senior academic and politician. He joins Michael Liebreich this week to talk about his journey from being the Director-General at UNIDO to his political career in Sierra Leone.

He is parliamentary leader of Sierra Leone’s National Grand Coalition and an MP representing Constituency 062 in Kambia District, where he was born. He is founder and CEO of The Energy Nexus Network (TENN), a regional ecosystem hub for sustainable energy solutions.

Dr Yumkella was Minister for Trade and Industry of Sierra Leone from 1994-1995. He joined the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation in 1996, rising through the ranks and serving two four-year terms as Director General between 2005 and 2013. It was during this time that Dr Yumkella came to understand the vital role of energy access in all aspects of economic and social Development.

In 2008, Dr Yumkella persuaded the then Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, to appoint him chair of a new interagency mechanism for energy cooperation called UN Energy and of the Secretary

General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change. In 2011 he was appointed as Co-Chair of the High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All, securing the designation of 2012 as the Year of Sustainable Energy for All, celebrated in particular during the Rio+20 UN meeting in Brazil.

In 2013 Dr Yumkella was appointed Under-Secretary-General of the UN, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All, and Founding CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All). He stepped down in 2015 in order to contest the 2018 Presidential Election in his native Sierra Leone.

In 2019 Kandeh joined the board of Power for All, a charity focusing on providing energy access through distributed solutions, and the Rocky Mountain Institute; he also became an advisor on Africa to the International Energy Agency.

Key links

Dr Yumkella’s Wikipedia entry


Sustainable Energy for All






Death by Dirty Cooking


Energy, Employment and Migration in Africa


Sierra Leone’s Annus Horribilis 2019


The Power of the Prize


Power to the People (Kandeh Yumkella and Carlos Slim)


Project Bo


About Cleaning Up

Once a week Michael Liebreich has a conversation (and a drink) with a leader in clean energy, mobility, climate finance or sustainable development.

Each episode covers the technical ground on some aspect of the low-carbon transition – but it also delves into the nature of leadership in the climate transition: whether to be optimistic or pessimistic; how to communicate in order to inspire change; personal credos; and so on.

And it should be fun – most of the guests are Michael’s friends.

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