AFRICA HAS THE EN­ERGY TO POWER IT­SELF

Con­ti­nent well po­si­tioned to cash in on the growth in re­new­able en­ergy in­dus­try

African Independent - - COMMENT -

HE African Union ap­proved of the Africa Re­new­able En­ergy Ini­tia­tive be­ing moved for­ward quickly and de­cided the African De­vel­op­ment Bank should be the trus­tee for the ini­tia­tive and host the in­de­pen­dent de­liv­ery unit for the ini­tia­tive.”

These are the en­cour­ag­ing words of the pres­i­dent of the African De­vel­op­ment Bank (AfDB), Dr Ak­in­wumi Adesina, at COP 22 in Marrakech, Morocco.

Ap­par­ently, the world is tak­ing this cli­mate change threat se­ri­ously, fi­nally. Africa could own this push to­wards re­new­able en­ergy. Why not? Af­ter all, the sun­ni­est place on earth, says Nasa, is Niger. The range of projects com­ing on­stream speaks for it­self.

The re­new­able or cleaner en­ergy po­ten­tial of Africa just got ac­cen­tu­ated by Kenya’s Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta, who in­au­gu­rated the 140MW geothermal plant.

Ex­pected to re­duce elec­tric­ity costs by 50 per­cent, the Olka­ria IV power plant took $126.5 mil­lion to build. That is cap­i­tal raised by pro­fes­sion­als, de­ployed to ac­quire

Trel­e­vant equip­ment, hire en­gi­neers, work­ers and ul­ti­mately take the in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion of Africa a step fur­ther.

Kenya was not alone. South Africa’s Min­is­ter of En­ergy Tina Joe­mat-Pet­ters­son re­cently opened the largest so­lar farm in the South­ern Hemi­sphere, Africa and the Mid­dle East re­gion.

The plant in De Aar, North­ern Cape prov­ince, has the abil­ity to power about 75 000 South African homes ev­ery year.

Rwanda added about 8.5MW of so­lar en­ergy to its grid. The farm took a mere 12 months to com­plete and switch on; $200-mil­lion plus in in­vest­ment.

Ethiopia is al­ready the ex­porter of hy­dropower to East African coun­tries such as Kenya, South Su­dan and Dji­bouti, thanks to its bold ini­tia­tive to tap into its mas­sive river net­work. The coun­try is not yet done with its as­sertive Grand Re­nais­sance Dam project, among oth­ers, yet. It is al­ready prov­ing that all Africa ever needed to shed its in­aus­pi­cious tag of be­ing the dark con­ti­nent lies on the other side of in­de­ci­sion and poor lead­er­ship.

If we over­come these two mon­sters, we are in the home­stretch to sup­ply more than our bil­lion Africans with re­new­able en­ergy and im­prove their qual­ity of life over­all, with at­ten­dant multi­bil­lion-dol­lar in­flow of cap­i­tal as a bonus.

We still have not fac­tored in ini­tia­tives such as the Grand Inga power plan in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC) into the equa­tion yet. All we need are lead­ers such as the late Prime Min­is­ter of Ethiopia, Me­les Ze­nawi, Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta of Kenya and even Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma of South Africa to pro­vide the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship for their spe­cial­ist min­is­ters to de­liver these long overdue projects to light up Africa.

This is not with­out the prob­lems of sup­ply chain ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, but then did James Have­lock El­lis not say the “ab­sence of a flaw in beauty is it­self a flaw?”

Flawed pro­cure­ment pro­cesses are not ex­cus­able, but if they de­liver bet­ter and sus­tain­able means to meet the en­ergy re­quire­ments of an in­dus­tri­al­is­ing and fast-grow­ing Africa, per­haps we should be real and let progress reign. It is when these im­pro­pri­eties reach “state cap­ture” pro­por­tions that we can panic; but still, elec­tric­ity sup­ply is bet­ter than liv­ing in the dark. Let the com­mis­sions sort out who stole what to de­liver the projects, but let Africans get that elec­tric­ity.

The last point is where I hope Dr Adesina will tighten his grip on for­eign dom­i­nance of Africa’s re­new­able en­ergy play. He made some dis­turb­ing re­marks in Morocco, thank­ing France and Ger­many for their con­tri­bu­tion to the sup­port of the In­de­pen­dent De­liv­ery Unit within the AfDB, some­thing to the tune of 6 mil­lion eu­ros, al­ready.

Noth­ing wrong with sup­port, as long as it is just that: sup­port; not take-over. The risk in mak­ing Africa’s en­ergy mix more re­new­able is that for­eign coun­tries will dump their tech­nol­ogy on us with­out build­ing our ca­pac­ity to man­u­fac­ture. That is where the cor­rup­tion men­ace resur­faces.

Africa is well po­si­tioned to cash in on the re­new­able en­ergy bus; as long as it does so on its own terms.

And it can.

• Kgo­moeswana is au­thor of Africa is Open for Busi­ness; an­chor of Power Hour, Mon-Thurs on Power FM; and weekly colum­nist for Sun­day In­de­pen­dent –Twit­ter han­dle: @Vic­torAfrica

PIC­TURE: AFP

SUN POWER: A so­lar car­port at the Gar­den City shop­ping mall in Nairobi. The car­port is Africa’s largest so­lar car­port and will cut car­bon emis­sions from power gen­er­a­tion through non-re­new­able en­ergy by 745 tons an­nu­ally, with a to­tal 3300 so­lar pan­els ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing 1256 MW an­nu­ally.

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