Large land mass, abundant solar energy resource, huge biomass resources, plenty of wind – all available in Africa, waiting to be converted into renewable energy. Meanwhile, millions of people have no access to clean energy and are using options that are not only harmful to their own health but are also a threat to ecosystems. In addition, industries in the continent are incurring enormous energy-related overheads, thus reducing their profit margins.
That is why I want to make a case for mainstreaming the renewable energy and economic growth nexus in Africa’s development agenda. I believe that leveraging the huge renewable energy resource endowment to generate usable forms of energy will be a game changer in Africa’s transformation. In reality, availability of modern, affordable and sustainable forms of energy is a key driver of any form of socio-economic and technological development. Therefore, African governments should accord investment in renewable energy the priority it deserves, in accordance with the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Impact of renewable energy on economic growth
Investment in renewable energy will boost productivity in every sector and shield economies from the volatilities of fossil fuels prices. This will pave way for attainment of other aspects of the economy. As a matter of fact, a reliable source of energy is the foundation for development of good agricultural infrastructure, manufacturing industries, health facilities, as well as small and medium enterprises.
In a continent largely dependent on agriculture, the use of renewable energy will help mitigate the devastating effects of climate change through reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This will boost agricultural productivity and address food shortages that are experienced in most African countries. Clean energy will also contribute to better health of many citizens.
Availability of energy is also a key element in improving education standards across Africa. In particular, in rural and low income areas, enormous benefits can accrue for learners from proper lighting and access to information and communication technologies, facilitated by availability of energy. This will promote the goal of nurturing Africa’s youth, and the creation of highly skilled, talented and technically competent human resource; a key factor in innovation and adoption of new technologies, job creation and economic transformation of Africa.
Access to clean and affordable energy will also be the key driver in digital transformation of Africa, in turn improving access to government services and service delivery. Digital systems will contribute to addressing corruption, terrorism, and perennial conflicts, especially during elections in some African nations.
The fifth PASET forum noted that the 4IR has the potential to have disruptive impact on all economic sectors in Africa. Therefore, the continent needs to be prepared, for example by transforming its education systems. As discussed above, this will only be possible when modern forms of energy are available and accessible to all in Africa.