Lenias Hwenda, Geneva. Lenias is a public health professional passionate about improving access to medicines. She is a health entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Medicines for Africa.
Africa’s energy revolution has been largely overlooked because of the tendency to focus on the kind of stories that have come to define Africa, stories of strife and suffering such as disease outbreaks, disasters and terrorism when covering Africa.
The stories we do not hear enough of are the narratives about the resilience of Africa’s people and their enduring entrepreneurial spirit. Africa today should be defined by its steady, remarkable progress.
It is worth noting the many innovations and technologies that are specifically addressing challenges in the African context. Amongst these, the energy revolution is worth noting because is transforming the lives of millions of Africans.
The energy market in Africa has failed leaving too many behind with devastating impaction health and on economic development. Two-thirds of Africans – 621 million people – live without access to electricity. An estimated 20% of Africans rely on wood, charcoal or other solid organic fuels for cooking. As a result, 600,000 people in Africa die each year from household air pollution.
Lack of products targeting this segment of African consumers leaves them vulnerable to excessive prices for energy for routine daily tasks such as cooking and lighting. The result of this market failure is that the world’s most vulnerable people are consequently paying the world’s highest prices for power. In villages, a woman typically spends 60-80 times more per unit of energy than someone in Zurich or Stockholm.
Renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind power have huge potential to bring significant social and economic benefits to African communities by improving public health, enabling access to education, and facilitating the economic productivity of millions of Africa´s illustrious entrepreneurs. Renewable energy systems can be deployed at speed to each more people at more affordable cost. They have capability to drive the heavy demands of industry and other productive sectors as illustrated by the Olkaria geothermal plant in Kenya and Ethiopia´s Gibe hydroelectric project. Africa’s energy gap is huge. Reaching more African people in need with it is urgent. The good news is that whilst there is still much to be done, the world has woken to the opportunity to serve this group of underserved consumers that has been neglected for far too long. Cost-effective solutions are emerging, and the wheels of are turning and gathering momentum through initiatives such as the New Deal for Energy in Africa driven by the The African Development Bank (AfDB).