IOA Position Papers

Harnessing solar energy bridges energy access gaps for Africa’s future

By Chipo Maziva

Analysis in brief: Africa holds the greatest potential for solar energy, yet this enormous potential remains largely untapped. Solar energy represents a unique transformational opportunity that can provide reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity supply and improve economic prospects and the quality of life for all Africans. To this end, Africa needs to reconsider its approach through credible action and accountability in the use of its abundant indigenous energy resources.

Africa’s crippling electricity problem

As Africa’s economy continues to expand, access to sustainable and affordable energy is becoming increasingly essential for supporting robust economic growth and improving the livelihoods of all Africans. In 2021, an estimated 600 million Africans did not have access to electricity. Compared to the rest of the world, Africa generates only 4% of the global energy. Despite the tremendous potential that Africa’s energy sector holds, private sector investment in energy infrastructure and service delivery remains minimal.

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Africa’s maritime industry is improving by embracing digitalisation

Analysis in brief: The realities of rapidly evolving ship technology and competition from other means of transportation have compelled Africa’s maritime industry to become more efficient, faster and environmentally friendly. This is largely achieved by the industry adopting digital solutions.

Online and computerised solutions to tasks associated with the maritime industry have made for more efficient movement of goods by sea, and much more is in store. In many ways, shipping remains as it has always been. Cargos are loaded and unloaded onto ships for voyages from Africa’s great Atlantic and Indian Oceans and Mediterranean Sea ports or from freshwater ports on Africa’s mighty rivers or great lakes. These trips are significantly enhanced by modern technologies like GPS, which make it impossible for any vessel to be ‘lost at sea.’ Cargo still goes through customs, but this process is also expedited by digital technologies. In shipping, speed and efficiency are the goals that need to be met to drive down costs. Lower shipping costs mean more profit for businesses and reduced prices paid by consumers.

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New Red Sea Pirates required a unified international response

Analysis in brief: Ships at sea are as vulnerable to pirate attacks today as they ever were in history. In the Red Sea, the pirates are anti-West militants whose attacks on ships have caused global economic havoc and worrisome environmental harm. Only an international coalition will end the danger.

The cause of the crisis

Never has a small country been able to hold hostage so much of the world and cause such damage to global wealth and the environment as the Houthi militant group that controls much of Yemen, located on the Red Sea, only 762 km from mainland Africa. Because of its dominant control of the country, thus becoming the principal governing force, the country name Yemen is often used in the media to describe the perpetrators of the Red Sea attacks, so that Yemen and Houthi become synonyms. In fact, the Houthi are sponsored by Iran, which seeks to control Yemen, while the runt government of Yemen is supported by Saudi Arabia, which also wishes to rule the country. Thus, the civil war can be seen as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Like Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Houthi militant group has seen the Israel-Palestine conflict as its excuse to raise its profile in the world. Yemen originally claimed it was only seeking to impede Israeli shipping in an effort to harm that country’s economy when its militants attacked Israeli’s first ship in October 2023. The ruse was quickly exposed when indiscriminate attacks on all vessels using the Red Sea shipping lanes became so virulent that world shippers abandoned the route. This has resulted in global economic harm and environmental damage.

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New age for Africa’s mineral wealth

Analysis in brief: New discoveries of valuable minerals remain regular occurrences throughout Africa. Getting these natural resources to market requires adaptations to new environmental, labour and social realities to ensure economic benefits are truly equitable.

While the trend in Africa’s minerals is shifting toward a demand for rare earth metals, there remains strong interest in and perennial customers for Africa’s traditional mineral extracts, from precious metals (like gemstones and gold) and industrial inputs (like copper) to energy extracts (like natural gas and oil). To meet the demand from all sources, exploration is an ongoing activity continentally. Scores of mineral deposits are located annually. A look at mineral discoveries from 1990 to 2020 shows all regions of Africa are bursting with new exploitable mineral wealth.

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Climate financing in Africa

Analysis in brief: The cost of financing projects to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change are beyond the means of African countries, and the private sector is not doing enough. Creative financial tools may be the answer.

The irony that the continent that contributes the lowest amount to global-warming carbon emissions but suffers the worst initial effects of climate change is not lost to Africa’s governments. They face a massive financial challenge of mounting mitigation efforts to save their environments and populations. Droughts have become disasters occurring with predictable regularity in East Africa, with the Horn of Africa particularly hard hit, while arid conditions in North Africa and the Sahel region have worsened. Storms are intensifying in Southern Africa, and the intensity of tropical cyclones striking Madagascar has grown.

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A ‘strong passport’ is a barometer of economic strength

Analysis in brief: A national passport that is honoured by another country allows its bearer to enter without the need for a visa. Such an agreement is a convenient document to have, saving time and expense for its owner. It is also a measure of a country’s economic promise and stability, which are factors of interest to investors.

Africa’s ‘weakest’ passport in terms of other countries willing to allow its owner to enter other nations without the need of a visa is Somalia. Only 13 nations allow Somalis to enter visa-free compared to 152 of the world’s countries that require that Somalis obtain visas before traveling. The lack of a functioning government, civil war and continued instability motivate other countries’ wariness of visa-free entry for Somalis. On the other end of the spectrum are Africa’s ‘strongest’ passports such as Seychelles and South Africa, made so because a majority of the world’s countries welcome their holders with open arms – or at least without the need for visas – as tourists, scholars and business partners.

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Africa’s biggest new infrastructure endeavours will transform the continent’s transportation and energy landscapes in 2024

Analysis in brief: The top-five ambitious infrastructure projects underway in 2024 are all grand in cost, scale and impact. They all share a goal of moving Africans and African cargo faster and more efficiently while providing new forms of energy to power transportation upgrades.

On all infrastructure fronts – dams, energy, rail, road and seaport – mega-projects will be expanding in their reach and scope throughout Africa in 2024. A sampling of some of the most impressive of these projects, which will significantly change the lives of Africans, finds they all share one commonality: their impacts will extend far beyond the nations where they are being built.

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Sifting through the hype: the rollout of the first anti-malarial vaccine suggests a malaria-free Africa at hand

Analysis in brief: The rollout of the first vaccine approved to combat malaria will positively impact economic and societal change in Africa and end family tragedies for millions. While drug trials herald a medical breakthrough, health officials have been focused on results and not publicity.

The cost of malaria

For centuries, the development of Africa, particularly the central and southern regions, has been hampered by the prevalence of malaria, a disease more virulent in Africa than on any other continent. Africa is home to a particular type of mosquito, the Anopheles gambiae, which is extremely efficient at transmitting the parasite Plasmodium falciparum (the species that is most responsible for severe malaria and death) through skin bites to humans.

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Africa’s proposed Smart Cities fail to show their promise

Analysis in brief: The futuristic planned cities touted by celebrities and financiers are no answer to Africa’s urban challenges, economically or socially. They are no substitute to competent city planning based on community participation.

A future based on promises, artwork and marketing

Africa’s urban migration is accelerating to the point of crisis, and the need for solutions to overcrowding, transportation gridlock, unemployment, sanitation and water and electricity shortcomings are acute. One notorious trait followed by many African governments is a preference for creating megaprojects rather than financing the unglamorous, hard work of fixing what already exists. Politicians – even those who are not corrupt nor attracted to kickbacks built into the price tag of highway and bridge construction – are lured by the attraction of claiming credit for megaprojects. Recently, a new temptation for them has arisen that seeks not to fix African cities but to bypass them altogether. Planned ‘smart cities’ are offered as a utopian answer to all urban problems.

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Powering Africa’s future through innovation: The top 10 game-changing innovations to watch in 2024

Innovations in Africa are booming, highlighting the transformative power of creativity and ingenuity in driving human development, unlocking new avenues for growth. In On Africa has identified 10 of the most significant and groundbreaking innovations to arise from Africa’s vibrant landscape in 2023, spanning diverse key sectors – from agriculture and healthcare to education, energy and beyond – each showcasing Africa’s immense potential for impactful development and inclusive growth across the continent.

In On Africa performed a rigorous desktop assessment of various databases, industry reports and online news articles with the aim of uncovering African-founded innovations created or launched in 2023. The selection criteria also prioritised innovations that offered unique value propositions and that held the potential for widespread impact across the continent. Particularly, we sought solutions that address critical needs and challenges faced by African communities, solutions that are poised to drive both technological advancement and economic growth.

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Africa’s wildlife economy is a truly sustainable industry if understood and nurtured

Analysis in brief: Africa’s tourism industry is the most well-known segment of the continent’s so-called ‘wildlife economy’, which is economic activity defined by profiting from the exploitation of nature’s flora and fauna without harming the source of this wealth. Wildlife economy has the potential of sustaining national economies (if professionally managed) and has many aspects to entice investors.

Defining the term, recognising its potential and acknowledging the challenges

Africa supports one-third of the earth’s biodiversity. Within all African countries, there are areas where these are still abundant within pristine natural conditions. The ways that this flora and fauna – and the often breathtaking beautiful environments in which they exist – can be commercially exploited, a notion as old as the fascination the international community has with Africa’s natural wealth. Safaris mounted to bring foreigners to big game have been operating for two centuries. Recent technological advances in transportation allow visitors to access remote areas and, upon their return home, purchase wild game shipped frozen via air freight from their recent destinations.

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