Renewable power surge in Africa faces a short-out

The push for more trained renewable energy workers comes as an increasing number of countries around Africa try to ramp up use of off-grid renewable energy.

31 January 2019 | Economics

The main limitation we’ve faced in Kenya has been the cost of talent. - Kweku Yankson, HR Chief: BBOXX

Geoffrey Kamadi – In Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 600 million people still lack access to electricity, off-grid renewable power is seen as one of the fastest ways to get energy where it’s needed, particularly to remote and rural areas where many Africans live.

But one big challenge stands in the way, experts say: Too few trained workers able to plan, install and maintain solar, wind and other clean energy systems.

In power-hungry Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, “we’ve had very significant challenges finding very capable talent, particularly at the senior management level”, said Kweku Yankson, head of human resources in Africa for BBOXX, a clean energy company working to expand off-grid systems in 12 countries from Rwanda to Pakistan.

Rwanda, in turn, has what Yankson described as a big pool of job-ready young talent but still relatively few people trained in clean energy technology, Yankson said.

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% of the global renewable energy workforce, and fewer than the number of people who work on wind power in the US state of Illinois alone, IRENA noted.

But with demand growing for renewable energy entrepreneurs and for workers in product assembly, sales, marketing, finance and intellectual property, efforts are now underway to provide the talent needed.

Jobs

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 to meet demand for renewable energy workers.

The effort, led by Power for All - an organisation that promotes more use of decentralised power - and backed by the Schneider Electric Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation, 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 expansion of off-grid renewable energy by 2030, according to IRENA estimates.

That expansion is focused in part on achieving a global sustainable-development goal of providing universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030.

In Africa, lessons are being drawn from India, which 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.

Challenges

One of the biggest problems facing expansion of renewable off-grid power in Africa 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.

Also, even in countries such as Rwanda, where a growing number of multinational companies have trained large numbers of young workers, “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.

New leaders

To provide a broader pool of potential hires, BBOXX has created the BBOXX Academy, an online learning platform that offers professional courses, said Emery Nzirabatinya, a former learning and development manager at the firm who now works in Nairobi for a US hearing aid company BBOX also has started a future leaders programme in Kigali, he said.

“The programme seeks strong university graduates that are put through a rigorous, year-long development and exposure programme at BBOXX,” Nzirabatinya said.

Julienne Ayinkamiye, a recent civil engineering graduate from the University of Rwanda College of Science and Technology, is one of two inaugural participants in the leadership project in Kigali.

As part of the programme, she is responsible for running a BBOXX pilot solar lighting project being launched this year in Rwanda and then across Africa, and has worked in a range of different departments of the company.

The work has included customer satisfaction research and analysis of competitors, she said.

She said she believes the training, “will help me increase my analytical, project management and general management skills” and give BBOXX a larger potential pool of talent to hire.

“I am now working on real projects impacting the lives of thousands of rural households across Africa,” she said.

Ramp-up

The push for more trained renewable energy workers comes as an increasing number of countries around Africa try to ramp up use of off-grid renewable energy.

Kenya in December launched a new national electrification strategy that includes stand-alone, off-grid renewable energy systems as a key part of the country’s goal of achieving 100% access to electricity by 2022.

About three-quarters of Kenyans currently have access to electricity, according to the new plan.

Part of Kenya’s push is an off-grid solar access project that aims to connect 1.3 million people in 14 particularly under-served counties, said Isaac Kiva, secretary of renewable energy in Kenya’s ministry of energy.

“We are also now working with our education system to develop solar-specific curricula in order to build the necessary capacity,” he said.

In Rwanda, the government is collaborating with US-based universities, including Carnegie Mellon, and partnering with online learning efforts to provide better access to training for clean energy jobs, Nzirabatinya said. – Nampa/Reuters

Similar News

 

!Gawaxab on his first 100 days

16 hours ago | Economics

PHILLEPUS UUSIKU - Even before the coronavirus crisis, Namibia’s economy was contracting, unemployment was high and fiscal space severely constrained if not exhausted, creating an...

Government support business sector

1 day - 17 September 2020 | Economics

Government has paid out N$ 3.8 billion for outstanding invoices and value-added tax in support of the business sector including small and medium enterprises (SMEs)...

Whk informal settlements don’t have capacity

1 day - 17 September 2020 | Economics

Windhoek mayor Fransina Kahungu said unplanned informal settlements in Windhoek will be declared reception areas that will be decongested in order to reduce the spread...

Namibia's investment risk increases - report

1 day - 17 September 2020 | Economics

ELLANIE SMITWINDHOEKThe risk of investing in Namibia has been increasing, while rewards have been declining, according to a new investment report. The coronavirus pandemic...

Policy void fuels poverty

2 days ago - 16 September 2020 | Economics

JM Kretschmer - The Namibian government has of late come under increased pressure from all sectors of society, and in a key turn of events...

August inflation a bitter fruit

2 days ago - 16 September 2020 | Economics

Although annual overall inflation of 2.4% last month was below the 3.7% of a year ago, overall food inflation is starting to heat up. According...

Hobbling SA govt relief package

2 days ago - 16 September 2020 | Economics

Emma Rumney and Alexander Winning - South Africa's National Treasury plans no further easing of its coronavirus loan scheme criteria to stimulate uptake, it told...

Oil demand set for slow recovery from virus

2 days ago - 16 September 2020 | Economics

Paris - With novel coronavirus cases surging in many parts of the world and more people working from home, the recovery in global oil demand...

Hope pinned on Africa's shift to online care

2 days ago - 16 September 2020 | Economics

Alexis Akwagyiram - When Loveth Metiboba's baby had diarrhoea, she worried that taking him to a clinic near her home in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, might...

SA landowners fear for their property

2 days ago - 16 September 2020 | Economics

Kim Harrisberg - On an abandoned private farm south of Johannesburg, the sound of hammers bashing nails into corrugated iron, brooms sweeping away the dust...

Latest News

Consumer education

16 hours ago | People

Ndangi Katoma 8 things you need to know about Old Mutual’s new funeral insurance.If you are the breadwinner in your family, the day may come...

Creating powerful change

16 hours ago | People

Monique Adams Talita Horn is passionate about making a change in the corporate governance field in Namibia as well as contributing to the national...

Virus knocks Oryx into the...

16 hours ago | Business

Covid-19 measures devastating retail and hospitality in the last three months of Oryx Properties' 2020 financial year resulted in the locally-listed group suffering a loss...

!Gawaxab on his first 100...

16 hours ago | Economics

PHILLEPUS UUSIKU - Even before the coronavirus crisis, Namibia’s economy was contracting, unemployment was high and fiscal space severely constrained if not exhausted, creating an...

Itula reacts to 'autocracy' accusations

16 hours ago | Politics

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEKIndependent Patriots for Change (IPC) leader Dr Panduleni Itula says he is unshaken by critics and aggrieved members who have labelled him a “hypocrite”...

I won't muzzle Fishrot probe...

16 hours ago | Banking

OGONE TLHAGEWINDHOEKBank of Namibia governor Johannes !Gawaxab has scoffed at claims that his appointment as the head of the central bank was politically motivated and...

We are not out of...

16 hours ago | Health

JEMIMA BEUKESWINDHOEKThe Covid-19 state of emergency expired last night and the onus is now on each individual to exercise maximum personal responsibility and vigilance, President...

Local lawyer makes waves

16 hours ago | People

Mariselle Stofberg The friendly and savvy Nicole Kloppers is a mother of two who took a leap of faith in opening her own law...

Head-on collision claims four lives

16 hours ago | Accidents

ELIZABETH JOSEPHKEETMANSHOOPA car accident 15 km from Koës killed four people at around noon on Wednesday.It is alleged that two vehicles, one belonging to NamPower...

Load More