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Only in Africa: Changing the way we change Africa’s story

When you experience something bizarre or negative, like power outages, in an African country, the quip that you might hear is: “Only in Africa”. It’s said with humour but emboldens the negative narrative of living in or doing business in Africa.

Originally published in the ESI Africa final newsletter for 2019 on 12/02/2020

I want to change that mind-set and will unashamedly use my professional influence to advance a positive narrative by sharing and celebrating Africa’s success stories.

Several energy professionals are challenging this mind-set. I touched on this last week when talking about skills development and highlighted a few programmes that are underway.

These initiatives are challenging participants’ views of the current issues while pushing their boundaries of the potential technical and regulatory solutions under examination during the programmes.

One that I’d like to draw attention to again is the Enel Foundation‘s third Open Africa Power (OAP) programme, which is underway this week at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB). The OAP is hosting 61 students from 16 African nations all coming from different academic backgrounds. This year’s OAP comprises more than 40% women.

Read more on Women in Energy here

The programme aims to forge a new generation of African leaders deeply engaged in a clean energy future for their countries. It also presents the ideal opportunity for the students to build professional relationships with each other and their expert tutors.

To present the students with an even wider network opportunity, the ESI Africa team was invited to attend the official launch of the OAP at the UCT GSB academy and a separate networking function at the Italian Embassy.

Speaking at the launch, Prof Anton Eberhard, Emeritus Professor and Director of the Power Future Lab at the UCT GSB spoke of the opportunity this provided for both student and facilitators, commenting that it was “an ambitious programme”.

The students were challenged by Carlo Papa, Head of the ENEL Foundation, to consider themselves ambassadors for their countries. This sentiment was echoed by Joao Cunha, division manager for renewable energy at the African Development Bank, who said that Africa is well-positioned to lead the way in the renewables revolution.

During the networking function, Enel Green Power South Africa Country Manager Bill Price noted that clean energy is a pathway to sustainable development.

Congratulating the students for taking this courageous step, Price asked: “Why did you enter this programme? Because you want to make a difference.” Pointing out that clean energy is a pathway to sustainable development, Price said that along the global electricity road “we got lost and we don’t care where our electricity comes from, but we should”.

The students in this resourceful programme will be armed with the knowledge to grow clean energy access, not for the sake of electricity alone but for how it changes the lives of those using it. Each student is poised to add to the positive “only in Africa” shout-out by delivering unique scalable power and energy solutions to the market.

Until next week.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.