At a meeting of the Clean Investment Funds Partnership Forum in Cape Town there was a telling comment in a session I chaired on climate change science when a participant from the Ministry of Energy in Ethiopia got up and said, “I am glad we are talking about the tools that are available for community planning for low-carbon development, but everyone in the rural areas of East Africa sees that the climate is changing. My mother tells me every season the rains and temperatures are different then when she was young.”
So what to do?
Putting more energy in and money towards the manufacturing of innovative green technologies is key: exploiting the wind or sun without solar panels and turbines is like trying to catch fish without a net or rod. Africa is poised to manufacture the ‘nets’ for clean energy.
Opportunities exist at many scales of activity: from village-level programs to manufacturing improved efficiency woodstoves, to building the hardware and knowledge systems to construct local ‘mini-grids’, to national efforts and global partnerships for large-scale manufacturing. The multinational development community can help, and is ramping up activities like the Scaling Up Renewable Energy (SREP) program that was a focus of partnership meeting on the Climate Investment Forum. China is investing heavily in Africa at the moment, and local manufacturing and national capacity building can be part of that equation.
I chaired a session on Scaling up Manufacturing at which the panelists told remarkable stories about these opportunities. Stimulating the green energy industry creates jobs, said Dan Gizaw, a founder of Canton, Michigan-based Danotek, a company that manufactures permanent magnet generators for wind turbines. Gizaw is from Ethiopia, and the company established manufacturing facilities there. “Manufacturing wind turbines and turbine components locally, has a job creating advantage you don’t have when you import them. We have created 475 jobs with our factory.”