While in Western countries there is progress in expanding and improving the energy supply through renewable sources, in places like South Sudan, Burundi, Chad or Liberia, the population with access to electricity is less than 9%. To reverse this situation, countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo are working on the construction of the world’s largest dam, which will include a 4,800 MW hydroelectric power station. But, Are macro-projects the solution for Africa? Some local experts do not think so and point to the microgeneration of renewable energies as an issue for populations who still live without access to this resource.
And they are not uncommon. According to data from world BankWhile 85% of the world’s population has access to electricity, the percentage drops in sub-Saharan Africa to 37.4%. “In only seven African countries, access rates to electricity are above 50%. In addition, there are currently more than 625 million people living outside the reach of networks traditional distribution “.
Benedict Peters, head of African energy company Aiteo Group, explains in a article published in the Huffington Post the “Unprecedented infrastructure crisis” which lives on the continent and which translates, among other things, into lack of electricity for homes, hospitals and schools. Added to this are the health risks these populations face when they pull one of the few outlets they have left: kerosene lamps.
But how does Africa deal with this crisis which, more than economic and energy, is humanitarian? Well, for the moment, by too modest initiatives, for example with alternative lamps or, on the contrary, with huge macro-projects which, according to the expert, are not designed by Africa or for the ‘Africa. “These are solutions inherited from everywhere else in the world and adapted only to supply energy in other regions of the planet”.
In this field would be the hydropower plant planned in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Defenders of infrastructure point to its future capacity to generate electricity equivalent to 20 large nuclear power plants. His detractors rather regret that he force the displacement of tens of thousands of people, in addition to having an impact on the environment. But there are more arguments that experts don’t quite see in this way the one that will lead to an energy solution for Africa.
These types of plants, Peters considers, “They take a long time to be operational; cost surprising amounts and -determining- very rarely benefit rural populations and the hardest to reach communities, which are precisely those that need electricity the most ”.
In a radically opposite direction are the initiatives that bet on the microgeneration of renewable energies, in which this expert sees the answer that best matches the characteristics and needs of the African population. “The technology to create microgrids, or series of houses or businesses connected to a small energy source, it is more and more easy to implement and its operation more reliable “, says the expert.
Promoting these initiatives through microcredits, for example, would speed up access to electricity for rural communities. These, in addition, would see how With micro-power generation projects, costs are reduced to cover lighting needs, since solar photovoltaic systems are cheaper than the kerosene which is so widely used in these countries.
In addition, if there is something that is not missing in this part of the world it is the sun as to guarantee supply. With 1,885 hours of sunshine per year in Nigeria or 1,739 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the energy source is more than assured. This would not only make progress in bridging the divide that still exists for millions of people, but it would also give them more opportunities to move forward. “The correlation between electricity supply and economic growth is irrefutable”, concludes the expert. And the statistics prove him right: Sub-Saharan Africa leads the ranking areas with the least access to energy and, also, the lowest human development indices in the world.
In this sense, there are some very interesting projects, like the project of artist Akon, who wants to do what no one has done, provide solar energy to 600 million Africans.