27 September 2013, Sweetcrude, Houston – An exciting project labelled the ‘Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge’ has been launched to implement sustainable energy and support off-grid solutions throughout Africa, especially Nigeria and Kenya.
General Electric, GE, Africa, who cite long-term aims to resolve energy solutions claim: “GE’s roots in Africa are over 100 years old and give the company a unique position to provide wide-reaching solutions and establish long-lasting partnerships.”
With a view to establishing impactful alliances, it perhaps seems fitting that the organisation has teamed up with the U.S. African Development Foundation, USADF, founding a collaborative agreement on the challenging prospect of pioneering further off-grid energy within the vast continent.
The $2 million (USD) challenge will present over 20 grants, for up to $100,000, to ambitious and forward thinking African organisations and companies who look to establish off-grid solutions, provide renewable resources and help power the economy and financial arena.
Nations Turn to Renewable Energy
The United States government private corporations and other agencies are collaborating with Power Africa, which is a White House instigated initiative attempting to propel growth and increase access to an affordable and sustainable supply of power.
It also aims to aid the continent in providing transparency, as well as responsible and effective leadership of energy resources. The main goal of all this collaboration is to increase the electricity access to potentially impoverished and certainly marginalised societies within the continent of Africa.
According to money.co.uk, methods of reliable and sustainable power are becoming recurrent and that “green energy is coming from a growing number of sources.”
The website views the stance on the issue as a positive step towards reliability and accountability in the energy sector, and also adds informative measures the public and individuals can be doing towards a bright future in safe and renewable energy: “There are several ways you can do your bit. The first is to opt for a traditional electricity company offering a so-called green electricity deal. These may ensure that for every bit of electricity you use, an identical amount of green energy is produced. Others offer options in which they take the money from your bills and invest it into renewable energy projects.”
Power-Boosting Plans and Commitments
While there are many constructive actions members of the public can take on an international scale; within the context of the Off-Grid Challenge, it is GE Africa and USADF which hope to aid and benefit the people. Rural and urban settlements which are considered as underserved by the current utility companies within the area are set to improve, amongst many other measures to be taken.
Lazurus Angbazo, CEO and President of GE Nigeria, reports that General Electric are excited and proud of their association with the upcoming initiative and has subsequently revealed the company agreed and signed an MOU with Nigeria’s Federal Government to provide a further 10,000 MegaWatts of power during the coming ten years. Angbazo has claimed this achievement will only be possible with GE’s technical pedigree, expertise and most importantly experience in the energy sector within Africa.
“GE is working with stakeholders in Nigeria and Kenya to provide sustainable ways to power more of Africa. Nigerians and Kenyans know what works in their communities, and are encouraged in this competition to apply local solutions to the power challenges.” Angbazo stated, before revealing that after the models employed upon Nigeria and Kenya, many other African nations, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana, would benefit from the challenge and initiative.
Those For and Against United States Intentions
The Economic Counsellor of the Nigerian U.S embassy, Douglas Climan, was forthright with his appraisal of the USADF and GE Africa in their leadership and long-term strategy for energy within the continent:
“Through President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, the United States is committed to expanding the grids and helping ensure transparency in the large scale energy sector. USADF, with its focus on economic development from the grassroots level and African-led and –managed projects, is bringing that commitment to underserved communities “off the grid” who need power as much as anyone else. We support this Off Grid Challenge that will benefit Nigerians with innovative solutions.”
With undoubtedly extremely positive actions and steps being taken to improve energy and power solutions within Nigeria and Africa, and the subsequent impact on the public’s quality of life; there are of course undeniable plaudits to be taken by the United States, General Electric and various African nation governments. There are, however, those who see the underlining motive of the U.S as less noble.
Forbes writer, Christopher Helman, believes Obama’s energy plan for Africa “greases billions in deals for General Electric” and suggests it is more financial and less humanitarian benefits that the United States are seeking. The debate looks set to continue as to the validity of the project, as international awareness and coverage increases.
One thing for certain, despite controversy, the impactful increase in quality and sustainable energy for Nigeria and Africa at large is an important step with an imminent arrival. The true intentions behind the steps however, remain to be seen.