Although Africa is blessed with some of the world’s largest hydropower and geothermal resources (10-15 GW of geothermal potential in the Rift Valley alone), bountiful solar and wind resources, total power generation capacity in Africa is about 80,000 megawatts (MW) (including South Africa), roughly the same as that of Spain or South Korea.
Only 24 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans have access to electricity and the energy generation capacity of Africa (excluding South Africa) is only 28 Gigawatts, equal to that of Argentina alone.
Around half of Africa’s total population (600 million people) are without access to electricity, and 900 million people on the continent rely on traditional use of biomass such as charcoal and firewood as their primary source of energy for cooking. Those who have access to grid power/ electricity pay twice as much as the amount paid in developed countries like America, Europe etc.
In 2014, African leaders attended the first US-Africa Summit. One of the paramount topics for their discussions with President Barack Obama and his Cabinet was; how governments and families can access affordable electricity across the African continent.
In the last 10 or so years, the Ugandan government has invested about or over 10 percent of the national budget per year in hydropower generation and grid expansion. However, to date, access to electricity remains low with only 24 percent of Ugandans having access to grid power. Worse still, most of the people connected to the grid cannot afford the said electricity due to high power tariffs.
Consequently, over 90 percent of the over 42 million Ugandans continue to rely on crude biomass to meet their cooking energy needs. This is not only leading to massive destruction of the environment but it is worsening climate change, and remains a stumbling block to achieve the SDGs and most importantly, the sustainable and generational development.
Reality is, traditional energy sources cannot keep up with today’s needs because they are vulnerable, inconvenient, and harmful to our environment.
Grid power cannot be trusted with its long, complicated, and often compromised supply chain. Centralised utility power has stripped individuals of freedom and locked us into unnecessary, expensive, long-term debt. Fossil fuels are taking away many lives due to its high contribution to greenhouse emissions.
What we need is to push our governments to make reliable solar power accessible for all, it is cheap and not difficult. Our world needs more distributed clean energy. As citizens, we are seeking more resilience and healthy living, innovative solutions that allow everyone to explore the solar future while meeting their immediate needs. As a country, we need to start looking at cooking without fuel, smoke or fire, keeping food and drinks cold without ice, charging your cell phone and laptop without grid or generator power, brewing coffee in an all-in-one travel mug without a stove, purifying water with only a little bit of sunshine, shelter in a tiny house that does not need grid power or water service, portable solar generator makes the noisy gas generator obsolete beating the heat on a warming planet, and others.
With a growing awareness of climate change and natural disasters, we must push our government to work with other governments to achieve universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services by 2030, as set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7, to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of citizens.
We should harness the power of renewable energy, especially solar power, which has emerged as a technologically viable and economically attractive alternative to fossil fuels, and avoid being locked into a dependency on fossil fuel energy. Now, more than ever before, the youth must be part of an international community that delivers multilateral solutions to shared global problems. A good example is youths’ wider dialogue on energy and climate that reflects the region’s capacity for leadership.
We must push our leaders to take decisive action to reform inefficient, inequitable and often corrupt energy utilities that are failing to provide reliable power supplies. We could as well rethink the long Umeme monopoly and start investing in products produced by companies like GoSun that build solar appliances to help everyone live with more independence and resilience.
Solar power and other clean energy sources are key to achieving Agenda 2063 which is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming the continent into the global powerhouse of the future.