When I was a child I lived in two worlds. The first world was a creative one, filled with music, a teeming treasure of sounds that stretched from church to nature. It included thunderous organ chords, melodious tube fiddles, and raspy frog choruses, to name a few. The other world I inhabited was more sober in nature, marked with political instability, hardships, and poverty. These two worlds came together in a loud cacophony that is my home country, Uganda.
Various scholars have indulged tremendous resources to study poverty. Amartya Sen is among such scholars. He used the ideas of Adams Smith as his building blocks and looked at poverty as lacking the basics that one needs in order to co-exist in the society. The World Bank estimates that 4 out of 10 Kenyans live in poverty. Consequently, several approaches to reduce poverty have been tried and tested in Kenya. In most cases, these approaches have been a blend of various theories, which have been opined by various scholars. However, it is my belief that just like cancer – which requires a combination of chemotherapy and proper nutrition – poverty cannot be fought using a single approach.
Sustainable energy access is vital to the eradication of poverty. I believe that by providing access to affordable energy, it triggers the domino effect of bringing light, clean water, tools of communication and learning, improving health, and allowing for the establishment and growth of small businesses. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim stated when joining the Sustainable Energy for All initiative in 2012, “Ending poverty and ensuring sustainability are the defining challenges of our time. Energy is central to both of them.”
When I heard Aminata Bangura’s story, it sent a shiver through my spine.
The five-year-old recently lost both of her parents to the Ebola virus, and she is now going back to an empty home, not sure whether her extended family members will ever be as kind to her as her real parents, whether her playmates will ever play with her again or whether she will ever have the chance to go to school again.
The highlands of Ethiopia, especially Tigray, were notorious for their severely degraded land. High population density, unchanged agricultural practices, climate change, the steep topography and intermittent and extreme rainfalls are the main causes of land degradation in the area.
According the World Bank’s latest report on the state of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research in Africa, African researchers produce only 1 percent of the world’s research.
As shown in this video, unlocking the talent of women and girls could improve the quality and quantity of scientific research and tech innovation in Africa.
Through targeted programs and internships, the World Bank benefits from investing in the talent of young African professionals, and has much to gain by investing in more. Below is a list of career opportunities available for young Africans who are interested in working at the World Bank. The jobs are stationed both at the headquarters in Washington, DC and the Africa country offices. All of these opportunities are paid and require fluency in English. However, fluency in at least one other Bank language (French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Portuguese, or Chinese) is an advantage. As a young African, I encourage any fellow African youth to consider these opportunities and pass them along to interested peers.
As African Presidents, Prime Ministers, and business leaders arrive in Washington to attend the first US-Africa Summit, one topic that will be paramount in their discussions with President Obama and his Cabinet is: how governments and families can access affordable electricity across the African continent.
Consider the facts: one in three Africans, that’s 600 million people, has no access to electricity. Neither do some 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises. Those homes and businesses fortunate enough to have power pay three times as much as those in the United States and Europe; furthermore, they routinely endure power outages that cost their countries from one to four percent in lost GDP every year.
Despite the fact that Africa is blessed with some of the world’s largest hydropower and geothermal resources (10-15 GW of geothermal potential in the Rift Valley alone), bountiful solar and wind resources, as well as significant natural gas reserves, total power generation capacity in Africa is about 80,000 megawatts (MW) (including South Africa), roughly the same as that of Spain or South Korea.
As Africa enters its 20th consecutive year of economic expansion, with the World Bank forecasting that Africa’s GDP growth will remain steady at 4.7 percent in 2014, and strengthening to 5.1 percent in each of 2015 and 2016, the continent needs more electric power. Specifically, Africa needs to add 7,000 MW of generation capacity each year to meet the projected growth in demand, yet it has achieved only 1,000 MW of additional power generation annually.
Over the last week I visited Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, two of Africa’s so-called ‘fountain states.’ The resources in these two countries – along with Guinea, Ethiopia, and Uganda – can generate enough hydroelectricity to satisfy the growing demand in Africa. I saw the range of applications for which this power is needed, and I saw clear solutions.
In Eastern Cameroon I visited the construction site for the Lom Pangar hydropower project. Once construction is complete and the reservoir is filled in the next couple of years, this new dam on the Sanaga River will improve the reliability of power supply and lower the cost for up to five million Cameroonians. The Lom Pangar project will also pave the way for developing the full 6,000 MW of hydropower potential of the Sanaga River by regulating the flow of the river.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, last week, I visited the Inga hydropower site on the mighty Congo River. DRC’s overall hydropower potential is estimated at 100,000 MW, the third largest in the world behind China and Russia, yet only 2.5% of this key resource has been developed. With 40,000 MW of generation potential, Inga is the world’s largest hydropower site. Its proper development can make Inga the African continent’s most cost-effective, renewable source of energy with an estimated generation cost of US$ 0.03 per kilowatt hour with little or no carbon footprint--a significant added virtue.