Many African countries receive on average a very high amount of days per year with bright sunlight and hot conditions, especially in dry areas. The sun is the natural gem that has gone under utilised even though it holds the potential to move the continent into new territories. Many households in Africa are still not wired to electricity grids with countries like South Africa facing an energy crisis that hampers economic growth. There is a lot of potential that could emerge with a greater movement towards using solar to generate power into the system.
Africa has great capacity with a future that lies in exploring the business of renewable energy sources, this under-tapped market could ensure that the region takes lead where this industry is concerned. Over the years there have been advancements in technology which have enabled solarpreneurs to tap into new markets and participate in job creation, and this is also potentially an investment opportunity for the public and private sectors on the continent.
Solar power is now being identified by many private companies as an alternative solution to the looming energy crises; it’s a renewable source that can reach a lot more people and prove to be cheaper long term. The international energy agency estimates that 585million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity, with the electrification rate as low as 14.2%.
According to the World Bank only 23% of Kenyans, 10.8% of Rwandans and 14.8% of Tanzanians have access to electricity, and the statistics are higher in other parts of the continent. People always say the world has contracted into one global community but there is still a big portion of it that’s still disconnected from the ecosystem. “Access to energy is essential for the reduction of poverty and promotion of economic growth. Communication technologies, education, industrialisation, agricultural improvement and expansion of municipal water systems all require abundant, reliable, and cost-effective energy access” (www.africa-engineering.com). Wind and solar power can be utilised in water purification, water pumping and desalination for small communities that are dispersed and off the grid, and this could improve people’s way of life in big ways. Solar is the ‘off grid energy’ regarded as a cheaper alternative to fossil and coal generated electricity because it’s more flexible and easier to maintain.
Jesse More who’s Managing Director of M-kopa provides ‘pay-as-you-go’ renewable energy for isolated households in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. M-kopa is making millions in revenues annually and has plans to license its technology to other markets. Senegalese American pop star Akon also recently launched an initiative called ‘Akon Lighting Africa’ at the United Nation with the aim of bringing electricity to at least 600million Africans who are still in the dark.
Solarpreneurs are emerging in different parts of the continent to take advantage of renewable sources of energy and create much needed opportunities. For instance Sachi DeCou from Tanzania co-founded a network of solar charging kiosks in his home country because he saw a gap in the market. The company sells the Kiosks to other solarpreneurs so they can electrify remote villages and small companies. Also innovators like Jesse More who’s Managing Director of M-kopa provides ‘pay-as-you-go’ renewable energy for isolated households in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. M-kopa is making millions in revenues annually and has plans to license its technology to other markets. Senegalese American pop star Akon also recently launched an initiative called ‘Akon Lighting Africa’ at the United Nation with the aim of bringing electricity to at least 600million Africans who are still in the dark. He is launching a ‘solar academy’ in Mali with the aim of training and equipping African engineers and entrepreneurs with skills that can enable them to develop solar powered electricity systems and micro grids. More young people are exploring the limitless opportunities being offered by renewable energy.
South Africa presently houses one of the biggest solar projects on the continent called Jasper. It is perfectly located in Kimberly and has been operational since October 2014, and the solar project produces rated capacity of 96 megawatt-hours of clean energy annually. Jasper inspired many future solar powered projects like Lesedi, the Redstone and the photovoltaic plants being installed in regional airports like George which promise to surpass Jasper in scale and reach. The infrastructure could ensure that the airports are self sufficient and independent from Eskom’s national power grid. The projects are respectively located in the East and Northern Cape since the areas boast some of the best conditions for solar power in the world because they experience dry temperatures. Morocco is also said to have one of the largest solar plans in the world with an estimated cost of $9billion. If the governments on the continent collaborate they can ensure that all their citizens are electrified without endangering the ecosystem or putting any more pressure on the environment. The construction and completion of the aforementioned projects alone could create many jobs, and more will be created in the running and maintaining of the sites.
This article was written by REBONE MASEMOLA