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Building Blocks Of Africa Series: What Is Sustainable Energy In The Context Of Africa?

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Building Blocks Of Africa Series: What Is Sustainable Energy In The Context Of Africa?

One of the most dominant conversations across the globe has to be that of sustainable and renewable energy. Many of the energy sources that have been in use globally for generations are unsustainable, and they are one of the major causes of global warming and climate change. While it has been determined by many experts that Africa produces the least greenhouse gases, and hence contributes the least global warming in comparison to other continents, the continent carries the highest burden when it comes to the effects of global warming and climate change. 

By Kudzai Joshua Zawe 

Effects of global warming and climate change in Africa

Africa is a continent where the majority of its inhabitants rely on climate patterns for production and sustenance. One of the most critical resources for Africa is fresh water which is used for agricultural production, one of the major driving forces of the African economy. Melting glaciers around the globe result in less fresh water being available over time as these glaciers act as fresh water “storage tanks”. With less fresh water being available, the capacity to produce enough food to feed the continent is reduced and this puts many Africans at risk of poverty, famine, and population displacement as people migrate to areas where they can find fresh water. While this sounds like a far distant apocalyptic future, we are closer to facing the dire consequences of climate change that we may realise. 

The employment of sustainable and renewable energy sources is a matter of urgency and it has a role to play in greater development of Africa. While there are players that are working on sustainable solutions to issues threatening food security, they need to work hand in hand with sustainable energy providers to ensure that the future of the continent is secure. There are a number of potentially sustainable energy solutions that have been developed around the world. Some of these include solar, geothermal and wind energy. We want to look at some innovative solutions that have been developed in the context of Africa in a bid to provide clean, sustainable energy to all corners of the continent. 

Sistema Bio (Kenya) 

On a continent that is dominated by farmlands, safari forests and many untouched natural lands, biogas has to be one of the energy forms that is sustainable in the long run. Biogas is produced when organic matter is digested by bacteria in the absence of oxygen. The end product of this process can be used to create thermal and mechanical energy which makes it a working solution for many people around the continent. In the case of Sistema, they have built systems that are built to serve both small holder and productive farmers. The biodigesters that come from Sistema also produce biofertiliser which can be used to increase the yield that a farmer can get from their crop. 

Sistema has installed over 30,000 biodigesters and these have in turn produced over 70 million cubic metres of energy. These biodigesters also help to keep the environment clean as they make use of waste that would otherwise be pollution. Besides the biodigesters, the company has also developed various types of cookers that can be used with biogas which makes it easier for those that adopt the technology to use it in their homes. The team from Sistema offers full training and installation to farmers that want to start using its system. This is a solution that can play a critical part in the further development of Africa through ensuring that agricultural producers remain fully capable of supporting their enterprises in the face of a looming energy crisis. Similar systems can be developed for urban areas, and these can use human waste and take care of another challenge that is waste disposal while also producing energy that can be used by the populations in urban areas. 

Lumos (Nigeria) 

Solar energy remains the leading source of sustainable and renewable energy in Africa. There are hundreds of millions of people on the continent that live in areas that are off the power grid and this creates a unique problem when it comes to providing these people with electrical energy. Lumos was developed with this specific challenge in mind and this startup has created a system that can be used by anyone on the continent while mitigating one of the obstacles to setting up a good solar system, cost. 

Lumos’ customers pay an initial fee which facilitates the installation of the Lumos system at the location that it is needed. From thereon, a user pays monthly instalments as they use the energy provided through Lumos. Users are guaranteed a reliable supply of electrical power that is produced through sustainable means. If this system continues to expand, it allows businesses and homeowners to move from environmentally damaging energy sources when faced with unreliable electrical supply. While Lumos is currently serving the Nigerian market, it is clear that they have plans to expand into other African territories and it will be interesting to watch how they go about that. Versofy is another solar energy provider that is employing a similar system in South Africa so do check them out as well. 

The creation and development of sustainable energy solutions is critical to the overall growth of Africa. These, and other, energy solutions have a big part to play and we are cheering them on. It is important that we make use of solutions that are tailor made to fit the African context because only then can we tackle the challenges we face head on. 

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