Illuminating Africa

Infograph produced by GOOD Magazine and Column Five Media
Infograph produced by GOOD Magazine and Column Five Media

Did you know that 79% of people living in developing African countries live without electricity? The lack of electricity in homes, schools, and hospitals can undermine development in Africa.  We have blogged, about energy demands in India, but here is a view on Africa!

The infograph (pictured above) produced as a joint effort by GOOD Magazine and Column Five Media, demonstrates the need for renewable energy in Africa.  Africa is the second largest continent with a significant population, and according to the information depicted on the infograph, Africa uses the least energy per capita than any other continent.  Africa is a resource-abundant land with an estimated 18% of the world’s “recoverable uranium”. There shouldn’t be a problem with Africa generating its own electricity? There is a lack of infrastructural development, funding, corruption, and a laundry-list of geopolitical problems.

There are a list of benefits stemming from a green revolution.  Supachai Panitchapakdi, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, states that “Green economic development underpins environmental protection, economic growth, and development.”  These ‘development’ opportunities include, economic development, improved health standards and the health of millions, reduction of air pollution from burning kerosene and biomass, and decreased emissions of greenhouse gases.

There are organization committed to providing renewable energy resources to facilities.  For example, Power Up Gambia, has implemented and successfully completed solar energy projects in Gambia.  Recently, they replaced Bansang Hospital’s battery storage system, which illuminated the children’s ward.  The Bansang Hospital is located 200 miles east of the capital and serves over 600,000 people living along the Bansang River.

We also see changes being made by countries, independently.  Egypt’s energy and electricity minister Hassan Younes declared that Egypt will begin producing wind energy in 2011.

“Egypt’s plan to generate about 7GW of wind power by 2020 as part of the government’s overall goal of producing 20 per cent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020.”

Their renewable energy endeavors places Egypt at the forefront of wind energy in Africa, and their efforts are consistent due to the deteriorating supplies of oil and gas.  But these goals are not just financed by Egypt.  Egypt is receiving financial assistance and cooperation from the German Development Bank, the European Investment Bank and the governments of Japan and Spain.

These projects are great opportunities, but what is holding them back? According to a  New York Times article, “investors are reluctant to pour money into products that serve a dispersed market of poor rural consumers because they see the risk as too high.”  Investors rather finance a $500 million solar energy project than multiple $5 million small-scale solar energy projects because it is easier to monitor in a concentrated area, or a contained grid.

The article further explains that Africans in small, rural villages often take on their own initiative.  Sara Ruto used to go to a neighboring village about 3 hours away to charge her cell phone that she used to for mobile banking.  After investing $80, Sara and her husband installed Chinese-made solar panels.  This not only helped their business, but “since Ms. Ruto hooked up the system, her teenagers’ grades have improved because they have light for studying. The toddlers no longer risk burns from the smoky kerosene lamp. And each month, she saves $15 in kerosene and battery costs — and the $20 she used to spend on travel.”

Sure, projects like mobile banking are great standards for development, but we fail to recognize that power is necessary for such projects to succeed.  Infrastructural development and providing renewable energy can make room for future development projects.

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