May 30, 2017

LIGHT AFRICA 2030; Proposed Solutions to accessible and sustainable Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) – ‘A toddlers Approach’


 It is of paramount importance to understand the definition of ‘Sustainable energy’. According to Fortune Ganda in the Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, sustainable energy can be defined “as energy capable of providing affordable, easily accessible and reliable energy services that meets the general economic, social and environmental needs within the development context of a society for which these services are intended, whilst recognizing equitable distribution within the society. However, in practice ‘sustainable energy means different things to various individuals. Sustainable energy is sometimes associated with renewable energy or natural gas. Whatever approach used, sustainable energy will always cover resource endowment, energy infrastructure and development needs.


For over 25years, reports from the World Bank and United Nations and Environment Programme states that Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) has been experiencing a fall in economic development and more so a high demand in energy. This is so as a result of low capacity of industrialization and misappropriation of economic funds within African countries. The shortage of accessible energy has become one of the most important issues facing Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). For instance, research records the accumulative access to energy in over 43 African countries with the exception of South Africa adds up to the energy generation capacity of Argentina. Evidently, the cost of generating electricity in SSA adds up to a high US$0.18/kWh when compared to South Asia-US$0.04/kWh and East Asia-US$0.07/kWh. Technically, Sub-Saharan Africa possesses only 24% share towards electricity access which is the lowest globally (Eberhard, 2008). It is worth mentioning that only 8% of rural households have access to electricity and 85% of the people depend on biomass energy (OECD/IEA 2010; Ram, 2006; ICSU, 2007).

Following the demise of the Second World War leading up to the late 1980’s, the concept of Sustainable development has been closely knitted to sustainable energy which has become highly important in addressing social and environmental problems. Despite the availability of technology and outlined proposed ways with development paradigms to coherently support the sustainable development goal No 7 which is the ‘access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’, there still appears to be a loophole in achieving this goal.

According to the international institute for environment and development, following an estimate of the world’s population of roughly, 1.3billion people, one in five individuals – lack access to electricity while wealthy countries in energy such as Iceland being the highest energy consumer per capita and the world’s leading producer on geothermal energy which simply means majority of its energy emancipates from renewable sources and over 3billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste for cooking and heating.

It is worth understanding that Energy access is an important aspect of human life – a cycle which evolves with modern age and increasingly aids the achievement of other sustainable development goals. Embracing this cycle automatically underpins the standard of health; education, climate change and livelihoods – yet millions of people across the globe have little or no access to electricity and subject themselves to using hazardous unhealthy fossils for cooking and lightening.

For instance, with Nigeria’s expansive oil and gas reserve and its potentials for abundant renewable energy, Nigeria’s economical and energy crisis has over the years weakened its ability to reduce the rate of hazard energy usage as well as poor living in order to support socio – economic development. Following the privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, in the bid to address certain energy related issues, over 70% of the Nigerian Population currently live without guaranteed access to electricity supply. According to the Nigerian Association of Energy Economists, only 25% of the country’s population has access to regular supply of electricity and this statistic refers to individuals residing within the urban areas of the country, thus neglecting the other residing within the rural parts.

Observing from the realist writer’s point of view, there is an obvious link between energy and various development factors such as lack of clean, affordable and reliable energy in rural areas, education, health, gender, food security, economic growth, water and environment and their importance in every facet of our lives. According to the CEO for SE4All, Mr Kandeh Yukella, in his introductory statement, highlighted few linkages “in the absence of energy, the hospitals will not run well; without energy the children will not study at night – thus expecting low educational results; certain food products can no longer be processed and stored for long, this also extends to food security issues; finally, lack of reliable energy prevents any economy from creating new jobs therefore stagnating business growth.
Clearly much effort has been given both in theory by International paradigms/organizations and in fiction by academics in order to ascertain a proactive and clear method to achieving this goal. Arguably but to mention a few, with the emergence and circulation of new modern technology, access to renewable energy for people living in rural and drought affected areas can be tackled by introduction of a solar powered water pump, improved cooking stoves which not only will conserve fuel but also prevent health issues related to burning firewood’s, supply of low smoke stoves, introduction of wind power; over the years wind power has been used for pumping water and milling grains and also used as a source for electricity generation and finally, the use of Biogas.

The use of Biogas is considered in line with the harsh increase and sometimes scarcity of fuel which majorly would affect those living in the rural and undeveloped part of the country. Hence, cattle manure and biogas fuel technology seemingly provides a better sustainable source of power and in addition a better income for farmers. However on the other hand, despite the United Nations Global Tracking Framework 2017,  which reports the urgency to speed up actions on access to electricity - following a slight improvement in 2012, there has been a decline as of 2014, which calculates over 1.06 billion people surviving without electricity with major concerns in countries like Angola and the Republic of Congo. Secondly, access to clean Cooking - In Nigeria and Afghanistan, access to clean cooking falls by about 1% point annually. This basically means the number of people using tradition solid fuels to cook rose slightly to 57.4% and finally energy efficiency.  

In conclusion, the most probing question follows - Asides from the obvious International development paradigms and organization tackling accessible and reliable energy issues within Sub-Saharan Africa, are the various country governments involved taking a viable and realistic approach in addressing these issues? Overall, given the target ahead, there needs to be an increase in financing, large scale co-operation of governments within Sub-Saharan countries, bolder policy commitments and the willingness to embrace new technologies on a wider scale.


Written by Ms Jacinta O.
Associate at Babajide Koku & Co Legal Practitioners

 Photo 2 - plumen.com
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