NAIROBI — An environment expert has said Chinese know-how in renewable energy development could help generate clean and sustainable power in Africa, which is home to almost half the global population lacking access to electricity.
David Rodgers, a senior climate change specialist with the US-based foundation, Global Environment Facility, said China had made wind and solar power technologies, which used to be seen as luxuries, become affordable to the world.
“China’s approach of doing things in a big way has made the country become the leader in the world by availing affordable energy to the populations,” Rodgers said on Wednesday at the United Nations Environment Assembly in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
China is the world’s largest investor in renewables excluding large hydro, with its $102.9 billion in investment in 2015 representing more than one third of the global total, according to a report issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in late March.
The US was a distant second, with $44.1 billion(R691billion), followed by Japan ($36.2 billion) and Britain ($22.2 billion), the report shows.
The UNEP says Africa could be one of the most promising markets for renewal energy in the next decade due to its abundant solar, wind, biomass and geothermal resources.
Rodgers said Africa should harness these renewable energy resources to help it address power shortages.
“Africa must develop strong policies to enable them to adopt solar and wind power since the continent still do not have enough supply of energy.”
In this regard, he said China’s know-how in the renewable energy sector “should be transplanted into Africa.”
“China’s investment to help make distributed power a reality, coupled with support for proper policies, would be very helpful to help African countries achieve their goals for clean and sustainable power.”
Chinese companies have been supporting African countries in developing renewable energy, engaging in solar, hydro, wind and thermal projects.
Clean energy projects are part of ten major plans for China-Africa cooperation outlined by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a China-Africa forum held in Johannesburg, South Africa in early December last year. China will provide $60 billion of funding support for the plans.
People in rural areas in Africa suffer the most from power shortages. Rodgers believes renewable energy could play a role in alleviating the problem.
“It may not be necessary to build out the grid 100 percent when we now have technology, such as distributed power, solar PV, and wind that can be based in rural areas and in villages,” he said.
Harare – South Africa has been ranked as the most promising market for consumer spending by the middle-class, pipping Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria, which is ranked second, findings of a survey showed this week.
The survey, conducted by Agility Emerging Markets Logistics, also ranked Kenya and Ghana in third and fourth positions respectively, according to executives surveyed under the index.
About 1 100 executives, who responded to the survey, also mentioned that sub-Saharan Africa “remains a challenging frontier” for several other companies.
The index identifies the consumer spending sector as an equally important contributor to the region’s economic growth as mineral and commodity sectors.
Economists and experts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have warned African economies such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria against heavy reliance on the commodity industry.
“The (African) market is open for first movers who can navigate risk and nurture African talent. The opportunity is for those seeking to build long-term, sustainable businesses that bring world-class practices and adapt to local conditions,” said Geoffrey White, the chief executive of Agility Africa, which compiled the index.
Driving the consumer market industry in most of the African countries is a “fast-growing middle-class”, with executives also highlighting that “poor infrastructure, lack of power generation and corruption continue to pose the most risk to African economies” and to their growth prospects.
“The results show a serious disconnect between the perception of the market and actual opportunities. Africa’s requirement for logistics services and supply chain expertise is growing every day,” added White.
South Africa’s economy is being hobbled too by lower metal prices and the IMF has cut its economic growth forecast for the continent’s number two economy to 1 percent.
A steep hike in power tariffs that is expected this year could also further worsen the situation for mining companies that already frequently have to deal with a restive labour force.
The government said the economy would grow by about 1.7 percent this year and all eyes would be on Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his budget statement next month.
Experts say he will likely announce growth forecasts in the region of 1.5 percent to factor in difficulties and slowing output in the country
. However, a number of economists and the IMF are forecasting economic growth this year of less than 1 percent.
South Africa is ranked at 16, followed by Nigeria at 17, as having the most “advanced logistics industry and transport infrastructure”.
The index report says South Africa’s economy is battling “power shortages, slumping commodity prices, a plunging currency and labour unrest”.
Nigeria, which registered the biggest gain by any country, was said to have “enormous potential”, while its economy – which is heavily reliant on oil – “has been hurt by low energy prices”.
Industry executives said they viewed oil prices and China’s economy as the leading risks to the global economy in 2016.