A lot has been written by African experts on the subject of receiving aid from western countries, individuals and agencies. Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist and author addressed this issue in her 2009 book, Dead Aid, where she succinctly stated; “Development aid simply doesn’t work. It was supposed to lead to sustainable economic growth and a reduction of poverty. Name one African country where this has happened.” The argument follows that economic policy in Africa should be determined by Africans not by foreigners in the name of aid.
However, should there be an instance where Africa need not be resistant to aid? It appears the ‘Electrify Africa’ Act which was recently signed into law by the United States’ President Barack Obama may be the kind of aid Africa cannot afford to ignore but should welcome with both hands. This is especially considering how much the continent battles power cuts while some locations have no access to electricity at all.
The Power Africa initiative will expand electricity to millions of households in sub-Saharan Africa and will be largely funded by the US Export-Import Bank, through the investment of about $7 billion in US funds, in order to create 30,000 megawatts of clean energy generation.
In their 2003 paper on renewable energy, Stephen Karekezi and Waeni Kithyoma stated that Africa will benefit greatly from Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs) due to the fact that its use on the continent could provide attractive, environmentally sound technology options for Africa’s electricity industry and provide employment for the locals.
“The first question that comes to mind, however, is will this electricity be free for the Africans the service is meant for,” asks Ogbonnaya Ukwuaba, a United Kingdom-based civil engineer. “If we have to pay, then it will be too damn expensive because energy renewable equipment are slightly expensive,” he says.
“Secondly, since it is a loan, who is paying back, African countries or the United States government? No doubt renewables are a sustainable form of energy but the actual obstacle as regards to Africa is its financial and technical sustainability. On the brighter side, however, there will be creation of jobs, improved lives and economic growth,” he concludes.
For renewable energy expert, Segun Odunaiya, the Chief Executive of Abuja-based Havenhill Synergy, Power Africa is a welcome development as long as the project does not rest fully on the governments of sub-Saharan Africa.
“Electricity in Africa generation is really low, accessing clean energy in Africa is all good as it is one of the ways to tackle climate change, that is, until you consider the infrastructural development on the continent. Also it is better the aid is coming in form of loans as opposed to grants, which will enable us take the project seriously. A few times, we have had foreign experts come in, put some equipment in place to facilitate clean energy and after 6 months to a year, same equipment are left to die due to lack of maintenance,” he says.