From the 5 continents of the world, Africa experiences the most chronic power supply challenges but also possesses the greatest potential of renewable energy. Undoubtedly a solution into the power crisis consists of raising the share of clean energy electricity generation. Achieving this goal would not only require significant investments but also a clever profiling of Renewables. To be established as a mainstream industry, Renewable Energy needs to become more relevant to African society and connect with Africans. What is at stake and how could it be achieved in a relatively short term (5 years)?
Africa needs to expand electricity access massively and reach out to the hundreds of millions of people that are currently being deprived. In 2015, IRENA reported that Africa net electricity generation that accounted for 650 TWh in 2010 is expected to at least triple to meet demand by 2030. The drivers for this substantial increase are well established. African economies are generally growing at an annual rate of approximately 2% per year since 2010 and the young and dynamic population is now topping the 1.1 billion mark. Contributing to this mix, the rapid urbanization of cities and towns is explaining why energy needs are huge.
Challenges are real and a way to resolve them would involve connecting emotionally with African people through popular vectors.
- The First of them is Football. The world most popular sport is almost considered a religion and is practiced by millions of Africans. Superstars like Eto’o and Drogba are well-known in every corner of the continent and have become household names. Having renewables companies, being endorsed by football stars would go a long way in boosting the profile of the entire industry. As many African fans would usually wear equipment from their preferred teams such as FC Barcelona or Manchester United, similarly they would also have favourable views of solar companies associated to their favourite players. Sponsoring football tournaments whether, local, national or continental would also help the visibility.
- The second vector is Music. Music is an intrinsic part of African culture and African people are good consumers of their music. Established artists like Tiwa Savage or Fally Ipupa have videos with millions of views on YouTube. In them, multiple brands and technologies are regularly advertised to the delight of their large fan base. Squeezing renewables technologies inside would greatly contribute to vulgarize them to the general public.
- The Film Industry is the third vector. Overtime, it has grown in importance with the emergence of Nollywood as the world’s second largest movie industry by volume, right behind Bollywood. According to Nigeria government, in 2014 Nollywood’s value was estimated at $3 billion. With thousands of movies released every year, there is little doubt viewers would become familiar to solar, wind and hydro solutions if they see them in display. People get attached to movies characters and sometimes even try to emulate them. Having actors promoting renewable energy through clever scenes would certainly be a very effective method of communication.
- The fourth vector is Mobile Telephony. The penetration in Africa has defied all critics to the point that it is now referred to a revolution that is having profound economic, social and political impacts on the continent. According to market analysts, mobile revenues will account for almost one-tenth of African GDP by the end of the decade. This is an industry that is literally exploding and renewable industry should jump on this bandwagon. Initiatives like solar kiosks recharging mobile phones in urban and rural areas should be supported and their proliferation encouraged. Moreover, mobile industry has overcome the last mile distribution challenges and the Clean Energy industry should learn from it.
- The last vector is Social Media. Media like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube are changing the face of the world, moving it into a fast-paced environment where information is circulated at impressive speeds and volumes. Where national media hosts were previously the main channel to convey news and knowledge, the appearance of bloggers today provide more options for people to learn.
In fact, conventional industries have used these vectors and recorded tremendous successes. Following suit, Renewable Energy would irrefutably raise more awareness and positioned itself as a mainstream industry to overcome Africa Energy challenges.