Building Africa in Renewable energy

2015 has deemed itself to be a year of change, a new phase of leadership in the African Union to Nigerian leadership.

This can be a slight indication that we are ready to have a change in the energy resources we use.

This year’s African progress report by the African Progress Panel (Spearheded by Kofi Annan) paints the possibilities in economic development, cost reduction, poverty alleviation simply by exploring alternative renewable energy sources.

It is no secret that power shortages have caused a ripple effect on the detriment of various sectors of the economy. To which the report notes that power shortages diminish the region’s growth by 2 – 4% annually – making the uphill challenge of reducing poverty rates and job creation steeper.

Nigeria for example, is Africa’s powerhouse in oil exports, yet 95 million of its people rely on wood, charcoal and straw for energy.

However, although certain countries have not adapted to investing in renewable energy there are notable countries that are not only adapting to creating a green society – but further including innovative youth, small businesses and large firms in the private sector.

According to Kofi Annan, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and South Africa are emerging as front runners in the transition to low carbon energy (FYI, South Africa as we speak supplies energy to half of Sub-Saharn Africa, which makes its move to renewable energy even more necessary)

What was found as a common denominator in the countries’ equations is the use of national campaigns and projects. Campaigns and projects that include all stakeholders are the secret to encouraging renewable energy. The Ignite Power in Rwanda is evidence of such. Through infusing several private companies, government and philanthropic agencies, the project installs off grid technology through a prepaid system that can power radios, cellphones, televisions and lights.

In Kenya, the M-Kopa has proven itself not only to be innovative, but also cost saving. It blends solar with mobile technology creating a solar home system that can be used in off-grid villages. Through using MTN’s mpesa service, consumers pay a small deposit for this solar home system, which includes a solar panel, three ceiling lights, a radio and charging outlets for mobile phones. The balance of the deposit is repaid in small instalments on pay-as-you-go basis.

These small innovative companies play a pivotal role on continental level, as now, 5% of households in Sub-Saharan Africa use some forms of solar lighting, an increase from 1% in 2009.

In a nutshell, through incorporating small innovative companies (usually pioneered by youth Africans) interested investors and efficient policies we can reach the dream of becoming a world leader on climate-resilient, low- carbon development.