The last decade has seen African and world leaders emphasising the importance of effective and affordable energy solutions for the mighty continent.
In 2013 President Barack Obama traveled to Tanzania as part of his Africa tour and launched a five-year endeavor aimed to increase energy development and economic growth in the continent. Called the Power Africa Initiative, the governments of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libera, Nigeria, and the United States, along with the African private sector and the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) have been working together to design its strategy and implementation.
As part of this collective initiative, the Beyond the Grid programme is responsible for building successful partnerships with investors and turning the more than $1 billion invested into smaller off-grid projects throughout the market.
Nigeria in particular has experienced many problems in generating and distributing power throughout its modern history to a staggering population of over 185 million people. Though Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy it falls far below the continent’s average grid capacity per capita. The average Nigerian uses only three percent of the electricity the average South African uses.
Only one in four Nigerians have access to the grid and when they do, it’s not for more than a few hours a day. The role that both government and private investors play in increasing accessibility to electricity needs to greatly adapt.
The Role of the Private Sector
Nigerian entrepreneur Benedict Peters is the founder and CEO of Aiteo Group, one of the leading energy groups in Africa. Peters believes in the importance of collaborating with local communities to form joint energy strategies and projects that can translate into strong lasting relationships in the international arena. He states that the current energy crisis in Africa can be hugely minimised by microgeneration.
This initiative, which consists of setting up small scale electricity-generating systems as opposed to larger projects like the Democratic Republic of Congo’s controversial hydroelectric dam, would allow electricity to be brought onto the grid at a faster pace and would benefit more remote, rural communities who are so in need.
Countries like Nigeria and the DRC have the empty land and the sunlight needed to set up a system of solar panels that can begin powering small communities. But the obstacle in obtaining and implementing these projects is not accessibility, but funding.
The well-known and internationally funded initiatives tend to be larger scale, which take longer to implement and benefit the larger energy companies and population centres.
Nigeria is beginning to stress the importance of microgeneration projects which benefit remote communities and are much faster to see results.
It is believed that this kind of initiative can be implemented throughout many African countries and can in just a few years begin to reshape the way the continent manages their energy production.
In August of this year Alternatio Navitas company, based in Lagos, unveiled its ambitious plans for an off-grid solar home system to make use of the abundant sunlight in Nigeria and meet the needs of households across the country that lack sufficient energy from the national grid.
Alternatio Navitas CEO Tayo Ogidan says his company is on track to completely redefine the country’s use of renewable energy and efficiency. The technology needed to create solar panels improves drastically each year, and similarly, the cost of these solar panels decreases each year.
This happy occurrence, paired with such an abundance of sunlight in the country creates quite the advantageous circumstance for attempting to execute lasting energy efficiency.
The company’s director notes that new solar panels can last up to twelve years when used consistently for eight hours a day. The panels themselves are durable, needing only a relatively inexpensive battery replacement every few years.
Bringing Energy to Africa
Initiatives like these may seem simple to the west, where very few have to worry about being able to access power and electricity. But for the world’s most underdeveloped and least urbanized continent, collaborative efforts to bring energy efficient, environmentally beneficial, and accessible power and electricity to small communities is a major leap towards advancement.
If several such microgeneration projects are successfully executed and normalized, it can mean remote communities across Nigeria and greater Africa will experience an affordable way to receive sustained access to electricity.
Additionally, the implementation of these projects can create more jobs and mobility in small towns, working to connect rural areas both physically and technologically, to larger ones.