Opportunities abound for Africa’s energy innovators

“Africa has the possibility of being the first continent to become a green continent.” This is the opinion of Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations and Nobel laureate who chairs the Africa Progress Panel (APP) and who is closely involved in its day-to-day work. He passed these remarks at a press conference on the ‘New Deal on Energy for Africa’ during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January.

The APP consists of ten distinguished individuals from the private and public sector who advocate for equitable and sustainable development for Africa.

Africa is desperately short of electricity. According to the Africa Progress Report 2015, ‘Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, some 620 million Africans, accounting for two-thirds of the continent’s population, are without access to electricity. Annan says this vast energy deficit is “an injustice that robs millions of our fellow citizens of the dignity, opportunity and freedom that comes with access to modern energy”. Africa needs to accelerate development and adapt to global warming, but also focus on the region’s urgent energy crisis. Two in three Africans lack access to electricity.

Africa’s wealth in renewable resources provides hope that it can eliminate energy poverty and pursue low carbon development. “If we are able to power Africa and expand the development base, it will have an impact on health, education, manufacturing and a whole range of issues where Africa is left behind”, says Annan, adding that by “powering Africa, we are also contributing to the fight against climate change, because we are pushing for renewable energy”.

So what does this mean for African innovators and designers? The answer is straightforward. If creativity and innovation are directed to finding solutions for Africa’s energy needs, real progress can be made towards eradicating poverty and accelerating the economic growth of the continent. Annan says: “This energy deficit constitutes a significant drag on economic growth. Power will allow children to go to school, be able to read and be part of the 4th industrial revolution.”  

The SABS Design Institute, through its programmes that support innovation, entrepreneurship and design, is waiting to support Africa’s energy innovators.

Read more about Africa’s energy challenges on: http://www.africaprogresspanel.org/publications/policy-papers/2015-afric...