When nations develop it is in their best interests to do so in a manner that utilizes new innovative thinking. Dwelling on older methodologies can lead to stagnancy that slows progress. For years Africa has been a continent that faces a lack of electrinicty. Landlines are sparce in the countryside and frequently many families in the big cities will go with no power at all. Despite what would seem to be an obvious hindrace to electronic communication, Africa has found success by skipping an entire step in the evolution of telecommunication. Rather than bother with landlines, many have gone straight into mobile technology, focusing their energy on smartphone technological development. This has enabled many young developers to make their respective countries more marketable in the realm of smartphone technology.
The moral of the story is that development is not a railroad in which civilizations are constrained to a linear path. Development is a series of stepping stones in which one can progress much faster by simply skipping stones and making larger bounds. This strategy has worked for telecommunications and it can also work for energy. Fossil fuels continue to dictate the fabric of society. Without fossil fuels entire nations can collapse, yet they are finite, costly, and do damage to the environment. The utilization of fossil fuels was born out of the industrial revolution and has paved the road for a search for more efficient forms of energy. A select number countries have made strides in green energy such as Iceland where fossil fuels account for roughtly .1% of its electicity, the rest coming from geothermics. Many look at green energy and immediately jump to global warming, but whether or not one believes in global warming, there are substantial benefits that come from green energy that revolutionize a country’s future.
Renewable energies operate at a significantly lower cost than fossil fuels. As the name suggests, these energies are also renewable whereas fossil fuels demand more procurement and are susceptible to fluctuations in price and can create volatile inflation in the economy. The energy provided is not only cleaner, and more relieable, but it is also longer lasting. The country that masters renewable energy will be the one that dominates world affairs, just as the industrial revolution pushed Europe and the United States into dominance.
Africa is a continent laden with natural resources with many industries and special interests hinged upon their extraction. However, many African countries can jump ahead and utilize the economic promises of clean energy. The process has already begun with power being generated from biomass, water, sun and the wind. Solar power is by far among the most impactful. Uganda has already created buses powered from solar energy, setting precedent for the Ugandan company Kiira Motors and catching the eyes of investors.
Top – Kiira Motors’ solar powered bus; Bottom – Kiira Motors logo
Ambitious entrepreneurs are those behind the continent’s rise of alternative energy. In East Africa, those who live without access to electricity, roughly 75% of the region’s countries, can now have access thanks to a M-Kopa Solar which provides “pay-as-you-go” renewable energy for off-grid households in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The company can provide power to more than 140,000 households in East Africa for $0.45 per day, adds over 4,000 homes each week, and is expanding into other markets such as Ghana. Azuri technologies is another company that is making electricity a common luxury by providing for the installation of small solar panels, offering the same pay as you go system as M-Kopa.
Top – A village hut powered by a solar panel from Azuri Technologies; Bottom – A woman enjoying electricity in her home thanks to M-Kopa Solar
Now, in a rural village, one can find huts with an independent source of electricity, despite the lack of power lines and infrastructure. Local shops will no longer be forced to close sooner due to the lack of power and households will no longer face the dangers or the costs of using kerosene. The lack of governmental action in improving infrastructure has left the environment open to entrepreneurial zeal and renewable energy is one of the many mediums through which entrepreneurs express their creativity. Clean energy is predicted to be the fastest growing power source in the coming decades, and in a continent which holds many of the fastest growing economies in the world, this is proving to be a very promising endeavor for citizens and a very lucrative one for businesses and investors.
So although there is still money to be had in fossil fuels, one should be aware of their limited scope. There are about 1.5 billion people in the world who have no electricity representing about 20% of the world’s population. The innovations behind renewable energies allow them to be easily applied to this 20%. The installation, maintainance and costs are all more manageable than those of fossil fuels. Therefore fossil fuels, although lucrative and ubiquitous in the world, are slowly becoming the stepping stones that civilizations jump over.