Renewable energy progress in Africa halted by a lack of manpower

renewable energy progress

In Sub-Saharan Africa, renewables could be the solution for over 600 million people that still don’t have access to electricity. This would be one of the quickest ways to obtain power where needed, especially in remote and rural areas where many Africans live.

However, experts affirm that there is a great challenge ahead. The region has few qualified workers capable to plan, install, and maintain solar, wind, and other types of clean energy systems.

Africa waiting for the renewable energy progress

Goma, a city located east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is especially in need of energy. In this region, BBOXX, a clean power company, is working to expand off-grid systems in twelve counties from Rwanda to Pakistan.

Nonetheless, “we’ve had very significant challenges finding very capable talent, particularly at the senior management level,” said Kweku Yankson, the company’s director of human resources in Africa.

The situation in Rwanda is different but not less problematic. According to Yankson, there is a big pool of job-ready young talent. However, there are still relatively few people trained in clean energy technology.

Scarce manpower

Overall, only 16,000 people are recorded as working in renewable energy in sub-Saharan Africa, outside South Africa, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

That is just 0.1 percent of the global renewable energy workforce. To illustrate, it is fewer than the number of people who work on wind power in the U.S. state of Illinois alone, IRENA noted.

But all is not lost. There is growing demand for renewable energy entrepreneurs and for workers in product assembly, sales, marketing, finance, and intellectual property. Therefore, efforts are now underway to provide the talent needed.

Training to meet the demand

A Powering Jobs campaign, launched in October at an international off-grid renewable energy conference in Singapore, aims to train up to a million people globally by 2025. The purpose of this campaign is to meet the demand for renewable energy workers not just in Africa.

The effort is led by Power for All. This organization promotes more use of decentralized power and is backed by the Schneider Electric Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

The campaign will focus on building skills in countries where electricity access is very low; said Gilles Vermot Desroches, director of sustainable development at Schneider.

The push is part of a broader global campaign to fill an expected 4.5 million jobs related to the expansion of off-grid renewable energy by 2030, according to IRENA estimates.

That expansion is focused in part on providing universal access to affordable; reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030.

In Africa, lessons are being drawn from India. This nation has trained more than 30,000 solar electric installers in the past two years as part of a government-backed effort.

The country aims to train a total of 50,000 installers by 2022, according to India’s government.

Accessibility is also a challenge

The expansion of renewable off-grid power in Africa is facing bigger problems. One of them is that systems need to be built and operated in remote locations; where it can be harder to attract and retain staff, said Yankson of BBOXX.

Even in countries such as Rwanda, a growing number of multinational companies have trained large numbers of young workers. However, “the most pressing challenge has been around finding very capable and experienced managing directors and finding senior finance managers,” he said.

In Kenya, Yankson said, the difficulty is cost. Skilled talent comes at high salaries, thanks to competition for the best people in Nairobi among companies and non-profit groups.

“The main limitation we’ve faced in Kenya has been the cost of talent,” he said.

For more information, check Energía16

See also: European Union to reopen its doors to Argentine biodiesel

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