Promoting Energy Access in sub-Saharan Africa

By Okafor Akachukwu  | 09 May, 2016
Akachukwu Okafor (Convenor, Energy Access Dialogue) on the rooftop of a residential property in Abuja that runs on 100% renewable energy. 

Growing up as a nursery school kid in Kano, a city in Nigeria North-Central region some 27 years ago, I went to bed in an air conditioned room and required no assistance to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. I woke up with lights on, had a warm bath, eat hot breakfast, wore ironed school uniforms and had my lunch box with a flask of hot beverage. On return from school I always had my cool afternoon swim in the bath tub. I studied in a well-lit room at night. I never missed favourite TV shows. There was just enough electricity to do whatever I wanted as a child. Elsewhere in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa the story was different for another kid of my age and still is today. Today in the same city of Kano, other cities in Nigeria and elsewhere in less developed countries, many kids who could have afforded such a lifestyle can’t. The story and situation in rural and remote communities is totally different. There is absolutely no electricity to live such standard of life. The experiences for other members of the population especially women and small and medium scale businesses reveals enormous energy poverty that is in most less developed countries.

Solutions for fixing the energy system to meet rising energy demands, achieve universal energy access, improve efficiency and cut carbon emissions are complicated, complex and dynamic. Interestingly, the energy system if fixed, has enormous potentials to accelerate economic development, eradicate poverty, improve livelihoods and wellbeing, improve health care systems and deliver sustainable development. Unlike 3 decades ago, there is a basket full of energy sources to generate electricity from, consuming population and demand have more than trebled, actors – institutions, groups and stakeholders that are responsible for system governance have also increased – each with a different interest to protect and advance. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Seven (SDG7) aim that by 2030, all people in the world will have access to affordable and clean energy, the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix to increase substantially, global rate of energy efficiency improvement doubled. Other targets include to enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, promote investment in energy infrastructure and energy technology and expand and upgrade energy infrastructure and technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy to developing countries.

These are quite ambitious, demanding targets which require consistent and open conversations and collaborations among actors and stakeholders, across different networks, institutions, groups, sectors, industries, geographies and levels of system governance that make up the global energy system. These conversations would help actors have holistic, unfragmented, integrated system understanding of the challenges of the energy system and collaboratively articulate and implement effective solutions. Furthermore, they will help determine how the actualization of these targets will evolve, coordinated and implemented. Energy Access Dialogue aims to provide platforms for these conversations to start happening. Specifically targeted to sub-Saharan Africa, dialogue sessions will discuss different issues including energy generation – centralized systems (transmission, distribution, connection, metering), off-grid renewable energy technologies and solutions, grassroots innovations, revenue collection challenges, technical capacity deficits, challenges of labour and union laws and actions, economic and sociocultural, behavioural/lifestyle, political, investments – markets, service provisioning challenges. We have to understand these challenges the way they are, learn from solutions that worked and works, build success models, make adaptations, scale solutions that need to be scaled. Doing these would actually be one of the first steps to actualizing universal energy access and most of the sustainable development goals.


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