As a continent, Africa has made a lot of progress since the turn of the century. Indeed stakeholders in big corporations around the world have recognized the growing potential of Africa, with its vast youthful population as not just a market for products, but as next inventors and innovators of the world.
Across the globe, cities are growing by about 2% per year. The situation is entirely different in Africa; with cities growing at much higher rates; approximated to be about 8% per year. Though much of this growth is attributed by rural population moving into urban regions. This rapid urbanization happens much faster than the rate governments can put up social amenities and infrastructures. Electricity supply being one of them.
However, despite all these progress, the continent is being held back to lack of access to reliable and affordable electric power supply. It is estimated that about 640 million people, that’s two-thirds of Africa’s population, have no access to electricity.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates that the continent’s power outages lead to about 4% loss on GDP growth per year. It has now become apparent that energy poverty is now a matter of national security. Africa is currently facing the challenges of rapid urbanization, but the continent needs not be overwhelmed by that.
The continent can indeed improve the standards of living and boost socio-economic development, but for that to happen, the urban poor and rural areas need to have access to economic opportunities. Stable and affordable supply of electricity is one way of achieving that.
With power, people across the economic spectrum will be able to work longer, women will be able to walk home late from work at night under the safety of streetlights, hospitals will be able to run their affair much smoother… this list could go on.
So how does Africa boost electricity supply to its growing population?
One thing Africa has plenty of is the Sun. If a country like Germany, which receives very little sunshine compared to most parts of Africa, has been able to leverage efficiently on solar energy. Can you imagine just how much energy the continent can produce from solar cells if governments were to embark on an aggressive campaign to set that up?
For one, the governments need to zero-rate all solar energy equipment imports as well as fund startups operating within this field. There should be a tax discount for property owners who set up solar panels on their premises. With the mass migration of population from the rural areas into urban areas, the government should partner up with private sectors to set up solar energy farms in the vast unpopulated areas.
Africa has the potential of being a global leader in green energy productions. There is no doubt that African governments could invite experts like Tesla into coming in and setting up the solar energy production plant like they (Tesla) set up in Southern Australia.
The continent is said to be underutilizing its carbon-based fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal. Though it will not be wise for government around the continent to pursue this line of energy production, given the terrible effect they have on the environment, the governments could turn to innovative technology to mitigate their carbon footprint. For one, using a machine that produces less carbon emission from the burning of these fossil fuels.
Africa also has some of the biggest rivers in the world. Governments in consultations with experts from the environmental impact assessment departments could set up hydro-electric power plant for power generation. This could be coupled with wind energy.
Nuclear energy is also always a card on the table, but it would be advisable that governments thinking of taking that route work with the world’s best experts in this field to avoid catastrophes.