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Energy Poverty in Africa: An Under-told story
Right now, more than 5 billion of us have electricity. And amazing things have happened. Imagine, that for the first time in history…
Right now, more than 5 billion of us have electricity. And amazing things have happened. Imagine, that for the first time in history, everyone everywhere had power.
What would man accomplish?
How many crazy, game changing products would be invented in Africa and the world at large?
How many new entrepreneurial hubs would be built in Africa and beyond?
I can’t answer these questions. But I worry that these questions have not been asked frequently or pertinently enough.
Globally, 1.3 billion people live without electricity. Roughly half of them — a mammoth 621 million people live in Sub Saharan Africa.
Yet up until last week, this story rarely ever made the headlines.
Akon Lighting Africa changed that. An ambitious project to provide solar power to 600 million Africans, it didn’t break the internet but at least it got people’s attention.
You heard about the Ebola pandemic, the names of extremist groups Boko Haram and Al Shabaab might ring a bell and you may be aware of conflicts in South Sudan and Central African Republic. Unsurprisingly, health epidemics, terrorism and war in Africa routinely make the headlines.
Because they directly lead to the deaths of thousands of people.
You instantly grasp the consequences. The devastation speaks for itself. You get it.
But when discussing the power problem in Africa, one of two things tends to happen. The concept of people actually living without power in 2015 seems so farfetched, so unbelievable and so remote that it is difficult to comprehend. We are living in an exponential digital age. How is it possible that 1.3 billion people could really live without electricity? Other times, the lack of a direct life-threatening consequence from the absence of power tends to dampen the severity of the issue.
But that’s ridiculous because the story of the paucity of power in Africa is a story that cuts across generations. 3.5 million people are killed every year indirectly by this energy crisis- mostly by harmful pollutants or fires produced by alternative solid fuels that are toxic. Others die in hospitals when vital health equipment stop running.
And when they die, they take with them their dreams, their voices, their future inventions, their crafts, their enterprise, the jobs they might have created. Things that could propel themselves and many others out of poverty. Energy poverty murders progress.
Energy is a magic enabler. It is the backbone of any accomplishment. What can you do without energy? Well, according to physics, absolutely nothing. Electricity access is vital for development.
This story is about all of us. We have the chance to make history. Everyone everywhere with access to electricity. Peek into the future and imagine mankind firing off on all cylinders.
What will we see?
New dreams. New breakthroughs. New inspirations.