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Africa's Energy Paradox - F. Yaren Öztürk

Even though Africa is often expressed with many challenges, it is a continent that has a diversity of renewable energy sources. Because the sun's rays reach the earth at a right angle, the solar energy potential in Africa is relatively high. North Africa and East Africa have a high wind potential, which provides an excellent opportunity to benefit from wind energy. Also, the continent has a significant potential for hydroelectric energy with its large river basins. Its renewable energy potential is higher than the energy consumption of the entire continent of Africa. Especially the energy resources in North Africa and the Sahara Desert are considered among the enormous energy resources in the world. Its renewable energy potential is higher than the energy consumption of the entire continent of Africa.

Particularly, North Africa and the Sahara Desert's energy resources are considered among the enormous energy resources in the world. It is possible to cover the whole world's energy needs with the sun's rays arriving at the surface of the Sahara Desert. A solar panel placed in the Sahara Desert produces more electricity than three solar panels placed in any region of Germany. While it is expected that Africa with great energy potential should develop in fields of energy and economy, Africa still leads a poor life with limited access to energy.

There are approximately 600 million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa who do not have access to electricity today, and 900 million people do not have access to clean cooking. Compared to the other struggles experienced in today's world, this situation in the African continent painfully reveals the facts. The limited access to electricity and clean cooking, among the basic socio-economic needs, is the most obvious reason for Africa's backwardness. Whereas the renewable energy potential on the continent has the chance to overcome these difficulties, Africa is experiencing an energy paradox. One of the main reasons for not having significant progress in the energy sector is political obstacles in Africa. Unsteady governments, uncertainties in policies and political corruption have caused the lack of importance on energy policies. Insufficiencies in infrastructure resources and deficiencies in grids have made the situation poorer. The lack of financial resources and deficiency of urban planning are significant obstacles to development. Most municipalities in Africa have never had sufficient financial resources. It is also challenging to have the necessary public support for renewable energy sources because of the lack of financial resources experienced by governments.

The African continent population accounts for about 17% of the world's population. On the other hand, the African continent holds only 4% of the world's energy resource investment. At this point, there is a need for investors in order to fully utilize and benefit the renewable energy potential of Africa and solve the people's energy access problem. The number of foreign investors who have hesitated to invest in Africa due to corruption and risks that happened in the past is not negligible. African governments should pursue more transparent and sustainable policies to overcome investors hesitation. Developing more feasible energy policies and making reforms focusing on electricity and energy subsidies is also essential for investment. Investments in Africa are substantial to identify systems for the reliable distribution of energy and enhance energy infrastructure and urban policies. Multilateral financial institutions and foreign public investors can encourage more investors by giving weight to these investments for solving the energy problem in Africa. Another point is that a society that realizes the use of renewable energy can make a difference in Africa's social and economic situation and understands its value should be formed in Africa. This is a perspective that neither multilateral financial institutions nor investors can provide to people. African peoples and governments should notice, adopt and take action to make this feasible.

Many African countries have established policies to promote and increase renewable energy sources in their countries over the past decade. Including in Rwanda, Ghana and Ethiopia, significant strides have been made in renewable energy. Under the Paris Agreement, 45 African countries have set targets for promoting renewable energy usage in Africa under Nationally Determined Contributions. In many African countries, including Senegal, Morocco, Kenya, and Egypt, governments policies have increased, which encourage and support the usage of renewable energy. Egypt, one of the most populated countries in Africa with a population of approximately 102 million, stated that it targets to produce 42% of the electricity produced in the country from renewable energy sources by 2035. Benban solar park, named with a settlement near the Nile River and boasting 41 power plants, indicates that African countries like Egypt are trying to reach their targets. Benban Solar Park, the fourth-largest solar power plant globally, is a project that costs approximately 4 billion dollars, and the World Bank partially financed its cost.

As the world strives to minimize the effects of the climate crisis, reduce carbon emissions and discover more advanced ways of producing clean energy, the African continent is facing different challenges. Even in megacities like Lagos and Kinshasa, people have to cope with constant power cuts, while half of the continent's population lacks access to energy sources. In spite of being a continent with extensive energy resources, it is a fact that local people have still serious problems in accessing energy. In the past years, although countries have made progress in solving the problem of access to energy resources, there has not been a sufficient level yet. With a high potential for renewable energy, Africa can play a prominent role in resolving this paradox if it can receive the requisite investments in line with the correct policies and legal frameworks.


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