“Africa’s Energy: A New Deal” is the title of the article written by Francesco Starace for Africa: Lighting up the Future, the supplement to Aspenia magazine. In it, Starace analyzes the African economic scenario, particularly as regards growing trends in the energy industry, thanks in part to the great abundance of renewable resources the continent has to offer.
Following 2008's economic downturn, Africa is now showing positive trends especially in its western and eastern regions. Nevertheless, today 630 million people still do not have access to electricity, which represents a huge obstacle for Africa's economic growth. The situation is dramatic, considering that this figure could rise to 1.7 billion by 2030. The goal is to reverse this trend by focusing on renewables; for example, by investing in appropriate transmission and distribution infrastructures, one of the major issues facing Africa today.
One of the aims of the green economy is to accelerate sustainable growth and socio-economic change, and thus improve quality of life; and renewables could be the key factor to satisfying increasing demand for domestic energy consumption. In particular, Africa has plenty of water, solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass related resources, including a wide range of consequent benefits. In fact, renewable sources are easier to use, require facilities that can be built more quickly than other power source plants, and guarantee positive effects in terms of local labor and reduced gas emissions. In order for these to be realized, however, renewables' development plans must be supported by regulatory plans that have set the key standards for investments by the national and international private sector; in that regard, the “Scaling Solar Program”, tested for the first time in Zambia (2016), is a valid example that could be reapplied to other developing countries, in particular Senegal, Madagascar, and Ethiopia. Along with the development of renewable energy sources, the diffusion of “smart grids” is much needed: “mini grids” and “off grid” systems are indeed the most efficient, affordable solutions to bringing electricity to rural and isolated areas. There is still a long way to go, and it requires investments of 70 billion USD per year from now until 2030, two-thirds of which are for the production of energy (especially renewables) and one-third for the creation of transmission and distribution infrastructures.
Finally, a few remarks on the importance of developing growth-enhancing partnerships. Enel is a member of Renewable Energy Solutions for the Mediterranean - RES4MED, a public-private association. Recently, RES4MED members decided to broaden the geographic scope of the association towards Sub-Saharan Africa, and therefore created RES4AFRICA, a strategic platform promoting the deployment of renewable energy solutions and related infrastructures, which provides support both in terms of regulations and technology. In addition, RES4AFRICA is in line with the sustainable development goals defined by the United Nations.
Africa is changing faster than ever before. Young people are finding new solutions for the implementation of ideas and programs, and the number of startups is increasing, as is everything related to innovation. For these reasons and for the future of renewables, Africa is a continent to invest in.
Enel editorial staff