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Beginning with a vivid description of just how dark Africa looks at night, it launches into examples of how the majority of Africa doesn’t have power. A shocking number from the very beginning is that“two thirds of Africans have no access to reliable electricity.” The article then goes into some of the unreliable forms of electricity that pervade poor countries and how the costly effects of this norm. First of all, not having power hinders just about every aspect of life for these people. Everything from their economy to their health is held back by the inability to do basic tasks, like cooling vaccines. Another incredible number mentioned is 36,000 women die during pregnancy in Nigeria! One can only imagine how reliable power could reduce that number. Secondly, even the places in Africa with electricity often experience frequent blackouts. The people in Ghana call them dumsor, meaning “off and on.” Because these blackouts are estimated to cost small firms in Ghana almost half of their revenue and costing the economy about 2% GDP, the potential for economic growth is huge. In fact, “The World Bank reckons that if they had continuous energy supplies, sub-Saharan Africa’s economies could be growing by two percentage points faster, on average, then they do now” to quote the article directly.
It’s obvious that Africa needs more power, which they are working on with increasingly more eco-friendly forms of renewable energy like hydropower and wind turbines. However, the problem actually lies in how expensive it is to expand the electricity grid! Luckily, innovative companies are finding their market in rural African communities and selling them mini rooftop solar installations. These installations use a solar panel and battery to charge a few lights, a radio, and a phone charger. They’ve also adopted payment plans via phone companies to disperse the upfront cost. The adoption of such a system is spreading quickly as they are becoming cheaper and cheaper in price. However, they only provide a small amount of power, so they are not an ideal solution. Another option is solar “minigrids” that can power whole villages. While they do have higher upfront costs, many organizations are trying to find ways to disperse the expense. While there isn’t much data, it does show that the installations of a minigrid increases sales and incomes in the local area significantly. Not only this, but supporting industries spring up to supply this economic development. Minigrids could be the first step towards a more advanced standard of living in Africa if they could just figure out the funding logistics.
This article absolutely enlightened me on two things; the extent in which Africa is still undeveloped and the turning prices of renewable energy. I don’t know why but for some reason I thought renewable energy sources were relatively expensive to implement but after finding out just how poor Africa really is, (in that they don’t even have power in most clinics!) accompanied with their adoption of eco-friendly electricity, I’m feeling incredibly optimistic about the future of our planet. I found some of the statistics in this article incredibly shocking as I somehow thought Africa was poor but at least mostly urbanized and achieving some level of technological development but to find that most of them don’t even have electricity! Wow, I clearly overestimated. However, if they’re really doing that poorly and still finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint as they move forward in the world of electricity, I can’t help but to be proud of them. If Africa can do it, we all can!
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