Across the world, countries are observing a public holiday today. Whether you call it workers’ day, labour day or May Day this is a day that recognises the working force in all industries.
Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 2019/05/01 – subscribe today
However, noting that Africa has the youngest population in the world, over the next ten years, more than 10 million young African professionals are likely to be entering the labour market each year.
Is there scope for these young professionals to find jobs in the green economy?
According to Habiba Daggash, a doctoral researcher in energy systems transitions, to take advantage of the changing energy landscape in terms of job opportunities, countries must focus on improving the quality of STEM education.
“[STEM education] is a must to develop technical and engineering skills amongst young African professionals. This is not limited to formal education but also vocational and entrepreneurial to promote private enterprise and job creation,” states Daggash.
She adds that this will require the integration of sustainable energy, and more broadly, climate change into curricula, establishing vocational training centres, along with increased research funding to build knowledge and capacity in sustainable energy.
However, the current debate among energy experts is the concern around the perceived versus actual strength of the green economy to provide sustainable jobs.
In terms of rooftop solar PV systems, due to the prohibitive cost of installations for the residential market, it is essential that commercial banks offer innovative loan packages and at reasonable interest rates to spur the uptake of solar installations—and thereby the need for workers in this market.
Also, to keep supply and demand at an optimal level, all public buildings should be retrofitted with solar units. A further push will be to regulate all new commercial buildings and large housing complexes to be obligated to include rooftop solar systems in their construction plans.
Another critical job market is in the manufacturing of parts.
To date, there is little evidence of manufacturing taking place unless you are willing to include the assembly of products in the statistics. Admittedly, the assembly of parts does add to the job market but – and this is important – it doesn’t add value to the economy through the manufacture of products locally.
If Africa is to manage industrialisation ambitions, and thereby a sustainable job market, the focus must include providing a stable energy supply that can feed industrial activity. Notably, currently, it is centralised generation and the national grid that form the cheapest way to accomplish this aspiration.
Are we to remain at odds with global growth in the green economy in favour of industrialisation? Share your thoughts on this topic with us via the ESI Africa Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn pages.