Renewable natural resources for Africa’s sustainable social and economic development

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A wind farm near Nouakchott, Mauritania. Wind power is a sustainable, renewable alternative to burning fossil fuels for power. A wind farm near Nouakchott, Mauritania. Wind power is a sustainable, renewable alternative to burning fossil fuels for power.

This blog is an abbreviated version of one of four winning essays from the recent Africa Youth Leadership Essay Competition organized annually by the UONGOZI Institute.

The future is most certainly African.  Going by the World Economic Forum, one in five people will be African by 2030 roughly 54% of the global population. African economies are also on the rise with a rapid expanding Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 5-10%. If anything, these numbers alert us on the need to think forward; the rising population would mean more economic activities and energy consumption, meaning that the available resources will be outstripped by the increased demand.

Africa will need to take into account the rapidly growing population. One way Africa can achieve this is through tapping its renewable natural resources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.

The trying question is how would Africa promote the sustainable use of resources that have just recently started gaining momentum? If I was accorded with the honor of being a leader in Africa, my first order of business would be to incorporate, prioritize and incentivize renewable natural resources in my country’s long term economic and social blueprint. Let’s face it, a handful of our current crop of leaders are hell-bent to meet current demands  and have no sustainable long-term plans for future generations

As a leader, I would also push for the legislation and regulatory framework that promotes the use of renewable natural resources. I would emulate China and set up a transparent legal and policy framework by focusing on reducing some of the risks associated with the private sector. The objective would be to lay a robust foundation for the development of renewable natural resources. I believe without political commitment, will and support, the use of renewable natural resources will be sluggish.

I would also strive to build collaborative partnerships. Africa is home to small economies with limited budgets that are dependent on external financing largesse. I would endeavor to maximize and attract private capital for investments in renewable natural resource development projects. I would also re-engage the private sector through Private-Public Partnership as way of seeking projects financing – and also secure skills and technology transfers to the country.

With development banks, the odds are already in our favor as there has been a policy shift in financing renewable energies; the World Bank alone has approved more than $11.5 billion in the sector, while the African Development Bank has a Sustainable Energy fund for Africa with commitments of $95 million by various donors. This is a window of opportunity that I believe should be fully exploited to ensure the growth of renewable natural resources.

I would also create a specialized renewable natural resource research agency responsible for mapping renewable natural resources areas. It will also oversee the planning and implementation of renewable resources and its accompanying technologies.

I would integrate the entire fabric of renewable natural resources into the education system. . Renewable natural resources are the future of the continent and that makes it very crucial to facilitate early learning of the topic to kids in schools so they can gain familiarity of it at a very early stage. I would also establish an academic program for students to study at the world’s best academies and acquire the right skills. Secondly, I would establish academic courses on renewable natural resources at higher learning institutions which are lacking at the moment – qualified professionals from would be imported to teach in these field.

To ensure that that citizens continue to advocate for renewable natural resources, I would undertake an ambitious communications campaign to raise awareness on their importance, and how they come to play in our country’s development. The truth of the matter is that many African citizens are still incognizant when it comes to renewable resources.

Lastly, I would support startups, youth entrepreneurs and innovation spaces on renewable natural resources. Most African governments show very little interest in youth enterprises. I would support such enterprises by providing them with access to capital to streamline their ideas through loans directly from the government, or lobbying financial institutions to lower their interest rates to allow for their growth. I would also incentivize them to be more innovative by frequently planning competitions and challenges; this will assist their small-scale businesses to grow from the micro to macro level. Building an eco-system of small-scale, youth-driven innovative ideas will create a pipeline for the promotion of the use of renewable energy.

The promotion of the use of renewable natural resources is crucial for Africa’s social and economic development. For starters, these resources have cheaper running costs because the energy harnessed is usually free. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports that the costs of solar power have dropped by nearly 75% since 2010 while other renewable resources like wind, geothermal have shown to be cheaper than power generated from fossil fuels. Africa would reap huge benefits from savings resulting from these types of resources. Nevertheless, renewable natural resources are an important source for job creation. According to IRENA, 0.8 million people were employed from the sector as coordinators, managers, technicians. Most importantly, renewable natural resources are a win against the adverse effects of climate change that have taken shape in recent years - solar, wind, biomass all provide clean energies that minimize waste and pollution.

I am confident that if the aforementioned strategies will be given the due attention they deserve and be implemented in an inclusive multi-sectoral manner, Africa, with the aid of her abundant renewable natural resources, can become a paragon of sustainable social and economic development in the world.

Of course, it will not be as easy as it sounds on paper, but in Nelson Mandela’s own words, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

We owe it to the future generation to start acting now!!


Kelvin Mutagwaba

External Affairs Consultant, Tanzania

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