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Op-ed: Africa’s future is renewable energy

There’s one area where Africa has the chance to lead. And that’s in the space of renewable energy, writes Taru Madangombe, Vice-President – Power Systems Business Anglophone Africa at Schneider Electric.

In many ways, the continent of Africa is an unsung success story. Over the past decade, Africa has grown faster than any other continent. According to the World Economic Forum, six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies in 2019 were in Africa; based on PwC’s own research it’s likely that for the period 2014-2050, Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt will remain in the top 10. We all have much to learn from Africa in terms of how it has dealt with the pandemic, with governments coming together to work as one to reduce its impact and save lives.

Africa’s potential to lead in renewable energy

Africa’s growth means that demand for electricity is going to double by 2040. And yet today, just under half of the continent’s population don’t have access to reliable, safe power – 600 million people aren’t connected to an electricity grid. Can you imagine how much more will be achieved by ensuring that these people have access to energy?

Africa is resource-rich, and that includes the renewable resources of sun, water and wind. The continent could and will be a leader in renewable energy.

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Today, the situation on the ground doesn’t mirror that promise. Over the past decade, only 2% of the world’s renewable energy systems were installed in Africa.

Today, renewables represent the fastest and cheapest way of satisfying energy needs. And yet the biggest challenge to implementing projects is access to funding and technology providers. Universal electricity access will require an extra $120 billion investments per year up to 2040, and classic public financing channels won’t be enough to bridge this gap.

We need to do more to make Africa an attractive region for investors who want to put money into renewable energy projects. And we’ve got to offer more financing instruments to African nations.

One group which is working to find solutions to these issues is the renewAfrica Initiative. Launched in June 2019 in Rome by the RES4Africa Foundation, renewAfrica is a group of 27 Europe-based stakeholders from across the renewable energy value chain. This includes Schneider Electric.

Together, we’re working to put in place public-private partnerships that will be able to leverage our expertise and know-how both in financing and technology; our aim is to mobilise the scale of public and private capital necessary to help fund and implement sustainable renewable energy projects in Africa.

By working with partners such as the European Union, we will work towards making progress in several key areas, including offering end-to-end support along the entire project cycle, assisting with high-level policy dialogue, providing technical assistance to governments across Africa, and offering financial de-risking and capacity building measures.

Focus on renewables

The ultimate aim of renewAfrica is to help countries throughout Africa gain access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy. And this will focus on renewables. We have an opportunity to help Africa leapfrog the rest of the world when it comes to energy production and distribution. With access to energy comes more jobs, long-term economic development, and better living conditions for all.

By providing communities with clean, reliable energy, we’re providing a basis for countries to meet their commitments on the Sustainable Development Goals. By 2030, Africa could meet almost a quarter of its energy needs from clean, renewable energy sources.

IRENA has estimated that modern renewables amounting to 310GW could provide half the continent’s total electricity generation capacity. That would be a seven-fold increase on the renewable capacity available in 2017. Over the coming decade we have the opportunity to electrify Africa with renewables, providing hundreds of millions of people with the energy they need with no additional carbon emissions.

To do that, we have to work together to find solutions to both financing and technology availability. With initiatives such as renewAfrica, I’m confident that we can ensure Africa’s future is that of renewable energy. Join us in this goal, and let’s make it happen together. ESI

Guest Contributor
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