Powering Growth in the World’s Youngest Continent

Powering Growth (c) Fiyin Kolawole, Dec. 2016 with inout from Pixabay
Stand-up straight, lace your boots, hold my hand as I take you on a trip into the future of our world. It is 2026- the world hasn’t been destroyed as we feared- at least, not yet! Thoughts of robots destroying humanity sounds ridiculous- Artificial Intelligence is the old version of what makes us human; or in yesterday’s terms- superhuman. No one really has a job anymore- at least not those things we used to call jobs. Our air is cleaner, cities greener and life easier. Even climate change seems less scary- AIs’ got that too!

Just like we anticipated, most of the innovation that got us here happened in two continents- Africa and Asia. A lot happened in the rest of the world too. They just seem to be ripples of compulsory innovation from the third-worlds of yesterday.

As the world moves from what it is today to what it will become, we need to stop dreaming and start acting.

From the World Bank to the African Development Bank, from the African Union to the United Nations and her many children, you’ve heard it times without number- Africa is the world’s youngest continent. Right now, 2 out of every 10 young person on our planet is African. By 2025- just 5 years to the SDGs Target Year, the number of young people (aged 10 to 24) in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to increase to 436 million. That is about the current population of the United States and Russia combined.

Every concerned entity raises concern of African holding a ‘ticking time bomb’, sitting on a ‘tipping point’ or being the real-life model of Joel’s ‘multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision’. If indeed our fear for Africa is true, the most important thing that will move her from the negative incline on the tipping point to the breakthrough we want is ENERGY!

If indeed our fear for Africa is true, the most important thing that will move her from the negative incline on the tipping point to the breakthrough we want is ENERGY

Here are 5 approaches to energy that can transform the way Africa grows into the future:

  1. Green, All The Way: The news of India’s recent stride in clean energy followed google’s plan to run solely on green energy from 2017. This is instructive for African countries because India is considered a sister nation to most African countries in terms of her struggle with development. It is time to take the Paris Agreement from paper to projects. Green energy has been proven to be more efficient, cheap and ubiquitous; yet we still heavily rely on fossil.
Source: International Energy Agency

2. Economic Sustainability: The distribution of energy in Africa is largely subsidised, highly disorganised and therefore economically unsustainable. Many countries tried to solve this by privatising their Energy Industries; but it is fry-pan-to-fire if these private agencies are mere elites out there to amass power rather than provide socio-economic value. We need to realise that government is also a business- the people’s business. It thus needs to make profit to continue to exist, expand and exceed customers’ expectations.

government is also a business- the people’s business. It thus needs to make profit to continue to exists, expand and exceed customers’ expectations.

3. Responsibility: There is a saying in Yoruba land- “eni to kan lo le ro”- meaning that only a victim-rather a subject- can explain the situation better. It is we Africans that can solve our own problems. We must start by taking responsibility, taking charge. Acknowledging that even though the problem may not be our fault, the solution is ultimately our duty. That is why African leaders should organise events such as the Masdar Engage Competition where global citizens can come together to discuss and proffer solutions to the problems of their society.

even though the problem may not be our fault, the solution is ultimately our duty

4. Deliberate Design: Many settlements in Africa were ad-hoc constructions built for reasons ranging from war, search for food, and family quests; to colonialism and politics. It is high-time we started viewing settlements as economic beings. Then and only then can we design them and create programs in such a way that these settlements function as such- deliberately designed economic beings.

5. Transport Transformation: The way we move ourselves and our things in Africa is still largely antique. More environmentally friendly and efficient means of transportation such as bicycles, electric cars and solar vehicles need to be introduced.

These actions are as simple as flipping a switch, turning on the light, tilting Africa once again towards the future we want.

Bicycles for Rent: A Street in Medellin, Colombia. (c)Fiyin Kolawole. Dec. 2016
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