This article discusses thedevelopment of renewable energy in Africa.
Beginning with a vivid descriptionof just how dark Africa looks at night, it launches into examples of how themajority of Africa doesn’t have power. A shocking number from the verybeginning is that ‘two thirds of Africans have no access to reliableelectricity.’ The article then goes into some of the unreliable forms ofelectricity that pervade poor countries and how the costly effects of thisnorm. First of all, not having power hinders just about every aspect of lifefor these people. Everything from their economy to their health is held back bythe inability to do basic tasks, like cooling vaccines. Another incrediblenumber mentioned is 36,000 women die during pregnancy in Nigeria! One can onlyimagine how reliable power could reduce that number. Secondly, even the placesin Africa with electricity often experience frequent blackouts.
The people inGhana call them dumsor, meaning “off and on.” Because these blackouts areestimated to cost small firms in Ghana almost half of their revenue and costingthe economy about 2% GDP, the potential for economic growth is huge. In fact,”The World Bank reckons that if they had continuous energy supplies,sub-Saharan Africa’s economies could be growing by two percentage pointsfaster, on average, then they do now,” to quote the article directly. It’s obvious that Africa needs morepower, which they are working on with increasingly more eco-friendly forms ofrenewable energy like hydropower and wind turbines. However, the problemactually lies in how expensive it is to expand the electricity grid! Luckily,innovative companies are finding their market in rural African communities andselling them mini rooftop solar installations. These installations use a solarpanel and battery to charge a few lights, a radio, and a phone charger. They’vealso adopted payment plans via phone companies to disperse the upfront cost.
The adoption of such a system is spreading quickly as they are becoming cheaperand cheaper in price. However, they only provide a small amount of power, sothey are not an ideal solution. Another option is solar “minigrids” that canpower whole villages. While they do have higher upfront costs, manyorganizations are trying to find ways to disperse the expense. While thereisn’t much data, it does show that the installations of a minigrid increasessales and incomes in the local area significantly.
Not only this, butsupporting industries spring up to supply this economic development. Minigridscould be the first step towards a more advanced standard of living in Africa ifthey could just figure out the funding logistics. This article absolutely enlightenedme on two things; the extent in which Africa is still undeveloped and theturning prices of renewable energy. I don’t know why but for some reason Ithought renewable energy sources were relatively expensive to implement butafter finding out just how poorAfrica really is, (in that they don’t even have power in most clinics!)accompanied with their adoption of eco-friendly electricity, I’m feelingincredibly optimistic about the future of our planet. I found some of thestatistics in this article incredibly shocking as I somehow thought Africa waspoor but at least mostly urbanized and achieving some level of technologicaldevelopment but to find that most of them don’t even have electricity! Wow, Iclearly overestimated.
However, if they’re really doing that poorly and still finding ways to reduce theircarbon footprint as they move forward in the world of electricity, I can’t helpbut to be proud of them. If Africa can do it, we all can!