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Africa’s sustainable future goes through an energy revolution

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By Roberto Vigotti

· 3 min read

Africa's prospects in an uncertain future

With the economic fallout of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, skyrocketing prices, and the mounting impacts of climate change, the recent year has been unprecedented for the energy business.

Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of the energy crisis because of the difficulty in gaining access to inexpensive, dependable, and sustainable energy sources. On top of an already complex situation, the pandemic has produced a bizarre but alarming effect: a slowed-down rate of new electricity connections, particularly for off-grid systems, has caused the population growth rate in Africa to outpace access to electricity. Africa’s energy demand and supply landscape must therefore evolve on a dramatic scale: the most reliable estimations tell us that about 80% of increased power generation comes from renewable sources.

The issue at hand

Such an ambitious leap forward, however, doesn't come for free, as it must be supported by multiple integrated efforts: from an analysis of African nations that have successfully adopted renewable energy programmes, to an estimation of jobs that are generated through green investments In the continent, and the identification of benchmarks and best practices of effective regulatory reforms.

Investments, for their part, deserve a separate mention. With a global record peak of new renewable energy generation capacity reached in 2022, the precedent year showed, for Africa, an unsettling drop, with only 0.6% of global renewable energy investment going to the continent—a total of USD 2.6 billion.

This demonstrates a full-fledged energy impasse, around which a proper and structured business case should be made, and followed up by structured actions.

Powering Africa

According to our 2023 flagship publication, Africa’s Energy Future is Renewable, in order for Africa's future energy pathways to attain satisfying renewable electrification levels, it is necessary to address the barriers and identify the continent's needs. Raising awareness both among the general public and institutional members is a first step while leveraging existing knowledge through accurate, consistent information to stimulate informed decision-making. Enhancing policy and regulations for renewable energy investments and improving infrastructure are additional crucial steps, as they will contribute to a consistent investment de-risking, which Is preparatory to replenish the financing gap Africa's REs industry suffers from the last piece of the puzzle is represented by skills-building and vocational training, to improve local skills, increase the quality of work and guarantee efficiency and compliance with the highest quality standards.

Endless synergic efforts to be deployed, in a ridiculously short time span. However, if the mission we described today seems impossible, try for a second to imagine a future in Africa where sustainability is not at home…

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Roberto Vigotti is the Secretary General of RES4Africa Foundation, a European think tank gathering 34 stakeholders from the clean energy value chain to accelerate Africa’s RE transition. Previously, he spent 35 years in Enel Power R&D Division and served for 12 years as the chair of the Renewable Working Party of the IEA

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