Electrifying Africa: The Procurement Of Renewable Energy Is Critical To Close The Widening Power Gap

Access to clean water and electricity are basic human rights and it is unacceptable that still today, millions of Africans live without these necessities, writes Sivan Ya’ari, Founder and CEO of Innovation: Africa.   

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, over 320 million people do not have reliable access to electricity because of a lack of appropriate energy supply legislation and policy. These people cannot keep their food or crucially medicines and vaccines cold in fridges or simply cannot turn lights on at night. But most critically, without access to electricity, there is no access to clean water. It is an energy crisis for a continent with a population full of potential.

If the procurement and rollout of energy is properly managed, many people will gain access to what is actually a basic human right. Africa needs to be powered just like every other continent on Earth. This is why Innovation: Africa, an efficient non-governmental organisation (NGO), is focused on the rollout of solar, water and agricultural technologies in Africa.  

The NGO, which was founded in 2008, has delivered access to electricity and clean water to more than 670 villages, transforming over 3.4-million people’s lives, across ten countries.

Momentum In The Pandemic

Innovation: Africa recognised that the pandemic would disrupt the lives of underprivileged people who live on very little, disproportionately compared with those whose basic needs are always met. “This urgency prompted us to complete more than 390 solar and water projects in specific villages, transforming the lives of an additional two million people throughout 2020 and 2021. We will continue to provide access to sustainable, safe and clean water and to bring electricity to schools and medical centres across rural African villages, who would otherwise be left behind and forgotten. “Africa’s advantage is that it receives an abundance of sunlight. This can then be used as solar energy to power villages, towns and cities across the continent. It can also be cheaper to use this renewable energy source as compared with coal-fuelled electricity. Innovation: Africa is proud to be on track with its plan to complete a solar installation each day for an African community.  

In fact, the NGO’s expansion plan involves the completion of more than 2,000 of these projects by 2026, which will impact 10-million people.

Working With Partners

Innovation: Africa’s development partners also cannot underplay how critical reliable, uninterrupted electricity and water supply is in Africa.

For example, the African Development Bank (AfDB) recently released its third Electricity Regulatory Index (ERI). This index ranks countries in terms of how their electricity regulation environments compare with international best practice. These countries’ governments can then work out where the major gaps are in their energy regulations and distribution. Facilitating access to electricity is especially important to the continent’s development. AfDB says monitoring the progress of electricity regulatory environments is critical to the continent’s goals of overcoming poverty and hunger.

The statistics are frightening. Whole regions are battling with insufficient energy supply. According to The World Bank, West Africa has one of the lowest rates of access in the world. Only some 42% of the total West African population and 8% of rural residents, have access to electricity.

On a continental level, more than 640-million Africans have no access to energy, which means the electricity access rate for African countries sits at a meagre 40%, the lowest in the world. World Bank data shows that per capita consumption in sub-Saharan Africa excluding South Africa is 180 kWh, which compares woefully with 13 000 kWh per capita in the United States and 6 500 kWh in Europe.

Finding Value In Reliable Energy

Having access to electricity on a regular basis is not only needed to help people maintain their health but it also ensures that children and students can study safely, without the need for harmful candles or kerosene lamps.

It enables entrepreneurs and business owners to run operations more easily, at a lower cost. This unlocks economic potential and fosters job creation. Insufficient energy access can manifest itself in hundreds of thousands of deaths each year as desperate people try to live functional lives.

People burn wood or use paraffin stoves when cooking food, which can be very dangerous. Hospitals and emergency services also cannot operate properly without uninterrupted access to power.

Energy access for all Africans is one of the key drivers of inclusive growth as it creates opportunities for women, the youth and children both in urban and rural areas.

Speeding Up A Challenging Process

The AfDB has developed a new energy strategy to make the electrification of Africa happen more quickly.

This focuses on seven areas, the first of which is setting up an enabling policy environment. Second is transforming utility companies which can include parastatals, for success. Third is assisting in a process whereby the number of bankable projects is increased substantially. Fourth is growing funding pools to deliver on new projects, while fifth is supporting ‘bottom of the pyramid’ energy access programs, particularly for women. Sixth involves accelerating major regional projects to drive integration and seven is rolling out waves of country-wide energy ‘transformations’ from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

Innovation: Africa is committed to its mission to provide African communities with water and solar technology so that these people can live long and fulfilling lives.

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