Two-thirds of Africans still lack reliable access to electricity. To make matters more complicated, population growth is soaring. In Tanzania, around half of the population is under 15 years of age and creating jobs for all the young people joining the labour market in the coming years will be a real challenge without vastly increased access to clean electricity.
Existing and upcoming small businesses could be a part of the solution. Even now, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) provide around 80% of the jobs in sub-Saharan Africa, but the energy situation makes it impossible for them to flourish. Dealing with constant blackouts, they must partially – and some of them even entirely – rely on backup generators as a source of electricity. Powered by diesel, such generators provide energy at a high cost, both financially and in terms of environmental impact, in particular, global warming.
Avoiding the traditional path to industrialization will be essential to achieving a sustainable future. With the world facing the dramatic consequences of climate change, Africa’s economic transformation must be powered by clean and renewable energy sources. This means the continent will have to leapfrog to new technologies.