Africa is endowed with vast natural resources and is in the best position to adopt renewable energy (RE) technologies and to play a leading role in the global energy RE market. However, the heavy reliance on oil despite the increase in investments from international bodies and foreign countries shows that there is little progress in the renewable energy space in Africa. To illustrate this, the Federal Government of Nigeria has developed the National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy that contains the government’s strategy for deploying RE.
In addition, the government invested $20 billion in solar projects in 2017. With these, one would think considerable efforts are being made; yet, according to IEA Energy Outlook, electricity generation from fossil fuel is still on the increase with 80% of the power generated coming from gas and most of the remainder from oil.
I consider corruption to be the biggest obstacle to RE development in Africa, specifically in relation to policy execution, project management and accountability.
How are funds managed and the projects run? These are questions that have to be answered in total transparency before more money is to be pumped in with minimal results to show.
To start to tackle the corruption issue, processes and procedures have to be critically analysed. For example, proper disciplinary and reporting measures must be in place to ensure that energy policies are adequately implemented and public projects or funds are properly managed.
More so, the progress of every project must be monitored regularly with public knowledge and necessary remedial actions taken in case of non-compliance.
Furthermore, it is important to bring new players into the game; specifically, young, passionate, and educated minds. This goes beyond financing start-ups to mentoring entrepreneurs on how to build successful RE businesses. A perfect example of this in action is the Tony Elumelu Foundation which is built on the African capitalism concept that emphasizes the role of the private sector in facilitating Africa’s development.
We need more of this for the RE industry in Africa. It might sound like a daunting task but it would be worth it as the energy sector influences economic development to a great extent.
One very important benefit of empowering start-ups is competition. The more actors we have in the RE industry, the more competitive the market becomes, and competition drives innovation and helps reduce electricity costs.