energy needs

Africa’s search for alternative energy is a fallacy of modernisation

By Adebayo Adeleke, Adebayo Adeleke

Posted on November 30, 2022 14:37

 © Scouts in Durban are learning about renewable energy and are preparing two trailers equipped with solar panels and a wind turbine. REUTERS/Rogan Ward
Scouts in Durban are learning about renewable energy and are preparing two trailers equipped with solar panels and a wind turbine. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

The current world order which has been characterised by Great Power Competition has reignited the so-called new scramble for Africa. With various superpower states intensifying their long-held interests in the African continent to meet their needs little attention has been given to the needs of the supposed benevolent giver – the African continent itself.

Given the ever-increasing energy needs of the industrial world, sourcing for alternative energy supply in Africa has made the continent an attractive destination.

African leaders also welcome this given that majority of the states on the continent remain poor and continue to struggle in their quest for industrialisation considering their desire to become modernised.

Plagued by issues bordering on insecurity because of the activities of violent extremist groups, to the recent spate of democratic backsliding which has swept across some states on the continent, particularly in West Africa, one can only imagine the prospects of attaining true modernisation amidst these lingering challenges.

The dangers of the current situation have far-reaching consequences across various sectors of the continent, such as the supply chain.

Africa suffers from critical infrastructure deficits and requires significant amounts of financial resources to remedy its plight.

One report notes that a total of N36trn ($81bn) is required over a period of 30 years to close Nigeria’s – Africa’s largest economy, critical infrastructure gaps.

‘Availability of energy is a crucial element’

The availability of energy is a crucial element in fostering manufacturing and production, both of which are essential to Africa’s economic growth and development.

Potential investors are also likely to establish manufacturing plants in countries where they are guaranteed the availability of electricity to power these factories.

More importantly, they require a secure environment where they don’t worry about workers being kidnapped for ransom by violent extremists.

During the recently concluded COP27 talks on climate change, world leaders reiterated their pledge and commitment to ensuring a habitable world amidst the threat posed by climate risks.

In the past, such pledges appear to have been marred by political intrigues leaving the most vulnerable nations in Africa at the mercy of those who ought to be responsible and accountable for climate action.

Industrialisation needs

The need to take decisive action in this regard has been acknowledged, with countries such as the United States willing to provide African states with 300MW of nuclear energy to meet its growing industrialisation needs.

While this has the potential of not only significantly addressing the energy shortages that have been associated with most African states, it could also aid the supply chain by reducing the cost of production in a continent heavily reliant on the sale and export of primary communities.

However, a major stumbling block remains the threat posed by the activities of violent non-state actors.

The consequences for global peace and security of terrorist groups on the African continent obtaining nuclear materials and converting them into dirty bombs can only be imagined.

Three critical steps to take

African states must recognise that to get from where they are to where they desire to be in their journey to modernisation and industrialisation, certain critical steps must first be taken.

The first of which is exerting the much-needed political will to act.

Various studies have established that the rise and prevalence of violent extremism could be attributed to issues such as poor governance, endemic corruption, weak institutions, political marginalisation, and fragile state-society relations.

There is a need for a conscious and deliberate effort by African leaders to address these underlying root causes of violent extremism which are mostly within the realm of politics.

Secondly, African states must also recognise and come to terms with the urgency of the need to diversify their economies.

Where they have solely depended on a monolithic commodity such as oil, taking decisive steps towards ensuring that the over-reliance on such products becomes a thing of the past is not only central to mitigating the effects of global shocks but also to reduce the prospects of vulnerability.

This also requires a demonstration of political will in attaining the quest for modernisation and industrialisation.

As a third step, African states must be deliberate about investing heavily in science and technology in a way that guarantees optimal returns.

Having an edge in an increasingly competitive world requires Africa to transition from indigenous solutions to technologically driven ones as it seeks to close the gaps in its energy needs.

Doing all of these sooner rather than later might be what determines whether or not its quest for modernisation and industrialisation remains a dream or a reality.

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