African governments have been urged to devise a more pragmatic approach towards making renewable energy sources, particularly solar, available and at a cheaper cost to rural areas.
Such a move would improve their quality of lives and ignite vibrant economic activities in all facets of life including agriculture to improve the livelihoods of the rural dwellers.
The Chief Executive Officer of Consistent Energy Limited, a renewable energy project financing firm in Lagos, Nigeria, Mr Segun Adaju, made the call in an interview in Saly, Senegal, on the sidelines of a two-day workshop on energy, water and food and how those resources can be harnessed to improve the lives of the rural areas and villages on the continent.
The workshop, organised by Smart Villages, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), attracted civil society organisations in the provision of renewable energy, agriculture, and selected journalists across the West African sub-region. Among other things, the workshop was aimed at exposing the participants to how governments and the private sector can work closely to make renewable energy available to transform villages and improve lives.
Mr Adaju, said “renewable energy is the game changer when it comes to providing energy for the people; much as its initial cost can be quiet expensive on the face of it, this source of energy is key because of its medium to long term benefits to the people.
“Its initial cost will be expensive, but I say that it is far better than connecting to the national grid which also requires large financial outlay but can only reach a few at a time,” he said.
He added that “laying grid by kilometre is expensive and if that is what is to be adopted, many areas will not have power, so the solution is in renewables such as solar.”
He said the best strategy was the market approach where the people who wanted it would be made to pay gradually from their earnings from using the facility for economic activities in small businesses or in farming among other things that bring regular income, no matter the volumes.
Mr Adaju said the microfinance concept had proven to be able to reduce poverty and noted that a similar approach could be adopted in a similar fashion to help reduce the burden of the people and help give them access to energy sources to boast their social and economic activities.
“The people living in the rural areas and villages have a lot of entrepreneurial skills hidden in them in agriculture and other sectors. Small business holders also need energy to work consistently, but they lack that golden resource” he said.
“They don’t need direct aid, they need energy to be on their own and they can contribute to the economic development of the country they live in,” he said.
He said instead of buying kerosene on a daily basis or petrol or gas to power lanterns and other machines to produce energy, that same amount could be used to defray the cost of acquiring or installing the solar systems if the government could provide them the energy source to enable them to pay over time.
Mr Adaju said the governments could work with their own development finance institution such as central banks and other development banks to provide subsidised funding for the value chain at competitive rates. It’s not about subsidies, he stressed.
He cited the Nigerian example where the central bank had the micro small enterprise development fund to support such ventures. “If you do this, private capital will flow naturally to help develop this to take off in a much more grand way.”
Role of Parliamentarians
He challenged members of parliament to help play a critical role in providing cheaper energy sources for their people.
“They know the people and how they suffer for lack of energy. In the rural areas, people lack energy to power storage facilities, to dry their fruits among many other things,” he said.
By pushing for parliament to enact laws that compelled the government to reach out to the people to use renewable energy, it would help the people undertake much more productive activities, he stated.