With the international community pledging billions of dollars in investments in the energy sector in Africa, prospects of electrifying the homes of more than 600 million African people who don’t have access to power have never been brighter.
If ambitious investments that Russia has lined up in nuclear energy projects in Africa are anything to go by, loadshedding, so prevalent even in the continent’s biggest economies, should soon be a distant memory.
Over the past few years, Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation has been at the centre of negotiations to build nuclear power plants in Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda.
Rosatom is said to be the world’s only company offering a complete nuclear power cycle, with products and services from nuclear fuel supply, technical services and modernisation, to personnel training and establishing nuclear infrastructure.
Rex Essenowo, chairman of the Nigerian Diaspora Organisation in Russia, expressed excitement at plans to end the West African country’s power woes.
The continent’s biggest country by population and gross domestic product has more than 55 percent of its 173 million population without access to electricity.
“Nigeria is really in need of power supply,” Essenowo said, expressing frustration that Nigeria had many millions more people than Russia did, yet was “still lagging far behind”.
Dr Scott Firsing, a visiting Bradlow fellow at the South African Institute for International Affairs, highlighted the environmental advantages of nuclear energy. “Africa and the world needs nuclear, along with solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal for cleaner energy. I believe nuclear will always have a role in energy generation because it’s the best way of producing large amounts of carbon-free electricity,” Firsing said.
While Russian efforts to help end the continent’s power woes are centred on nuclear, the United Kingdom’s are based on solar energy. Energy Africa, a British government initiative that seeks to bring universal energy access on the continent forward to 2030 with the help of the sun’s rays, was launched in late October.
United Kingdom International Development Minister Grant Shapps, one of the ministers championing the project, said: “It is shocking that around two out of three of the African population have no electricity in their homes.
This not only holds back individuals, but entire nations, he said. “It prevents businesses from trading and holds back economic growth,” he said, adding that he was confident people’s lives could be transformed by the widespread installation of solar panels and systems. “The technology is there – all we have to do is remove the barriers stifling the market. This is what Energy Africa will help do. “It has the power to help millions of Africans lift themselves out of poverty and transform the prospects of an entire continent â€” something that is good for Africa but good for Britain too,” Shapps added.
The campaign, which will involve key stakeholders including African governments, donors, investors, lenders, industry, non-governmental organisations and the public, has been endorsed by the African Union Commission. Africa’s future does indeed look bright -and renewable.