Driving an electrical energy capacity-building agenda for Africa
“Energy, and sustainable access to energy (in particular electrical energy), is a great development enabler, enabling other infrastructure and development, industrialization, and economic growth. It also facilitates access to the evolving global “digital or knowledge-based economy”, which access will be key to future African growth and development within the evolving global economic paradigm.”
Ian McKechnie, CEO and Principal Advisor of management, project and engineering advisors Engenamic, comments further that particular challenges are facing the electrical energy sector in Africa. “For example, the continent is vast and characterized by large distances between natural sources of energy and load centres, and deep disparity in the nature and characteristics of the energy grids that will need to be established and interconnected to realize a sustainable energy future for the continent”.
“Furthermore, and notwithstanding the development of grid-based access to electricity, off-grid electrification (and associated “small power systems”) is also a major component (and challenge) in developing access to electricity across Africa. Small power systems include, for example, localized generation (particularly, but not only renewables), and mini/micro grids (localized smart grids).”
Aligned with this is a need to build broad-based sustainable capacity in Africa, for Africa, and (as far as possible) by Africa, and in doing so to synergise with and capacitate existing (and future) organisations, agencies, programmes and projects in a symbiotic manner. A collaborative and inclusive pan-African network, aimed at facilitating, building and unlocking broad-based sustainable capacity in infrastructure development, establishment and operation, through key attributes of:
- Skills development (technical & non-technical), as key to building sustainable capacity.
- Relevant research and knowledge development, focused towards African needs and priorities.
- Confidence building, through facilitating, de-risking and supporting investment and industry, and through facilitating engineering, technical and project support.
McKechnie concludes that “The African region (and, indeed, regions further afield) are faced by real constraints, including availability of skilled and financial resources as mentioned above. It is therefore important that existing facilities and capabilities across the regions be leveraged and mutually supported, and a holistic approach across the three key attributes is coordinated, integrated, facilitated and supported”.
We participated in a Wits Business School’s Energy Seminar, sharing some of the initiatives that Engenamic /Global Africa Projects were driving together with Wits University in respect of building capacity in Africa in the energy sector.