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#YouthMonth: Young energy advocates committed to lighting up Africa

The 25 young Africans participating in the first and only energy-themed institute offered through the Mandela Washington Fellowship are all committed to providing the energy needed to empower the continent.

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Representing 19 countries, their work ranges from placing solar lanterns in humble huts to advising the leadership of South Africa’s national power utility.

Over the next six weeks, they will be at the University of California, Davis, to leverage the campus’s energy expertise and better equip themselves to tackle the enormous energy challenges on their continent.

“They’re super impressive,” says UC Davis professor, Kate Scow, of the department of land, air and water resources and the institute’s academic director. “Bringing these young leaders together in one place is amazing.”

The fellows are between 25-35 years old, and have already promoted innovation and accomplished positive change. They include:

  • entrepreneurs promoting renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies;
  • other innovators setting up solar kiosks for off-grid villages or providing solar-powered cold storage to smallholder farmers;
  • the head of the Djiboutian Energy Management Agency, charged with implementing a law liberalising the electricity sector; and
  • the founder of a coalition that advocates for transparency, accountability, local participation and environmental management in Tanzania’s oil and gas industry.

Clean energy activist

Of the two South Africans on the programme, Adele Boadzo is a clean energy activist and solar entrepreneur with over five years’ experience in Africa’s energy sector. She is passionate about delivering clean energy projects to electrify the continent and is currently a project manager at a South African solar PV company.

She is also the founder of Hope Rises Solar, an organisation that empowers women to distribute and install solar technologies to transform their communities.

Major impediment to Africa’s growth

Grant Harris of Davis, who helped launch the Young African Leaders Initiative, the flagship of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, for the White House, says the lack of access to energy is an enormous impediment to Africa’s growth and economic development. “Without electricity, you cannot study at night, refrigerate a vaccine or dependably run a factory or business.”

“Whether Africa’s young leaders receive the skills and opportunities they need is going to determine the future of the continent.”

Full academic programme

UC Davis is one of 36 universities hosting the summer programmes for about 1,000 fellows selected through a competitive process from among 40,000 applicants. At the Specialised Institute on Energy: Pathways to Zero-Net Energy, fellows will experience a living lab for energy efficiency at the university, ranked third in the world for sustainability by the GreenMetric World University Ranking.

A few of the academic sessions will focus on empowering women to help address energy needs. In one workshop, a gender adviser and policy team member from USAID will discuss how developments in the energy sector affect men, women and children differently.

While there, they will be staying in the university’s West Village – the largest planned zero-net energy project in the United States.

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Special Africa Hub will help deliver multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects

The formation of a special hub to drive multi-billion dollar infrastructure investment was announced at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, on Wednesday.

The Sustainable Development Investment Partnership (SDIP) announced the creation of a dedicated Africa hub which will play a role in ensuring that 16 African infrastructure projects with a combined worth of over $20-billion will come to life.

The SDIP is an initiative hosted by WEF and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and started in September 2015 with an initial membership of 20 institutions, which had since grown to 30, and includes among others, the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), the Senegal Strategic Investment Fund (FONSIS), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC).

The SDIP, said Terri Toyota, Head of the Foundations Community and Development Finance and member of the Executive Committee of WEF, aimed to mobilise funding for infrastructure projects on the African continent to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals “through blended finance, an innovative approach to development finance that combines funding from private investors and lenders, governments and philanthropic funds”.

Group Executive for Strategy at the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) Mohan Vivekanandan said that the DBSA believed that “the SDIP initiative and its goal of delivering $100 billion in infrastructure projects within the next five years, will make a meaningful contribution and also help build local capacity and solutions by bringing together African and global private- and public-sector organisations.” In addition to mobilising the 16 infrastructure projects, the hub would, said Toyota, “facilitate the exchange of best practices across its network of institutions”.

Worldwide, SDIP has reviewed projects representing $30-billion in value, over half of which were located in Africa. These African projects had a combined value of over $20 billion. Toyota said: “The SDIP Africa Hub is an important first step to accelerate the engagement of SDIP members on the continent. We envision the hub building local capacity to advance blended finance best practices for infrastructure investment and ensure a consistent pipeline of projects for the initiative from Africa.” WEF Africa is taking place in Kigali from May 11-13 and is expected to attract over 1 200 delegates.

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