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African challenges with overpopulation of renewable energy sources: too few workers



In Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 600 million people still have no access to electricity, renewable energy outside the network is considered one of the fastest ways to get energy where needed, especially in remote and rural areas where many Africans live.

But the big challenge lies in the way, experts say: the lack of trained workers who are able to plan, install and maintain solar, wind and other clean energy systems.

For example, in Ghom, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is hungry, "we have had very significant challenges in finding highly capable talents, especially at the senior management level," said Kweku Yankson, head of Africa's Human Resources Department for BBOXX, a clean energy a company that works on expanding the off-grid system in 12 countries from Rwanda to Pakistan.

Rwanda, in short, has what Yankson described as a large pool of young people capable of work but still relatively few people trained in clean energy technology.

According to the International Agency for Renewable Energy (IRENA) data, only 16,000 people work in renewable energy sources in Sub-Saharan Africa, outside South Africa.

It's just 0.1 percent of the global workforce for renewable energy sources, and less than the number of people working on wind power in the US state of Illinois.

However, with increasing demand for renewable energy entrepreneurs and workers engaged in manufacturing, sales, marketing, finance and intellectual property, efforts are still underway to ensure the necessary talent.

4.5 million jobs

The Powering Jobs campaign, launched in October at the International Renewable Energy Sources Conference in Singapore, aims to train up to 1 million people by 2025 to 2025 to meet the demand for renewable energy workers.

Efforts, led by Power for All, an organization that promotes greater use of decentralized power, backed by the Schneider Electric Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, will focus on building skills in countries where access to electricity is very low, said Gilles Vermot Desroches, Managing Director
sustainable development at Schneider.

This incentive is part of a wider global campaign to meet the expected 4.5 million jobs related to renewable energy sources beyond the network by 2030, according to IRENA estimates.

This expansion is partly focused on achieving the global goal of sustainable development, which is a general approach to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy by 2030.

Officially passes by solar panels in the Pavagayan Sunshine Park, 175 kilometers north of Bangalore, India, March 1, 2018. It is expected that the park will produce 2,000 megawatts of power.

Officially passes by solar panels in the Pavagayan Sunshine Park, 175 kilometers north of Bangalore, India, March 1, 2018. It is expected that the park will produce 2,000 megawatts of power.

In Africa, lessons from India have been trained, which has spent more than 30,000 solar electric installers in the last two years as part of government efforts.

The country intends to train up to 50,000 installers by 2022, according to the Indian government.

One of the biggest problems faced by renewable energy sources in Africa is that systems must be built and managed in remote locations, where it is more difficult to attract and retain staff, said Yankson from BBOXX.

Also, even in countries such as Rwanda, where a growing number of multinational companies trained a large number of young workers, "the most pressing challenge was to find highly capable and experienced executive directors and find senior financial managers," he said.

In Kenya, Yankson said, the difficulty is set: Qualified talent comes to high salaries, thanks to the competition for the best people in Nairobi among companies and non-profit groups.

"The main limit we have to face in Kenya is the price of talent," he said.

New leaders

To provide a broader circle of potential employees, BBOXX has created a BBOXX academy, an online learning platform offering professional courses, said Emery Nzirabatinya, a former learning and development manager at a company currently working in Nairobi for a US company. BBOXX also launched a program of future leaders in Kigali, he said.

"The program requires strong university graduates who are running through a rigorous, long-standing program of development and exposure at BBOXX," Nzirabatiny said.

Julienne Ayinkamiye, a recently graduated engineering engineer at the University of Science and Technology of the Rwanda University, is one of the two inaugural participants in the leadership project in Kigali.

As part of the program, she is responsible for leading the pilot of the BBOXX solar lighting pilot that was launched this year in Rwanda, and then throughout Africa, and has worked in a number of different departments of the company.

The paper included customer satisfaction survey and competitor analysis, she said.

She said she believed my training would "help me increase my analytical, project and general management skills" and give BBOXX a greater potential for talent for employment.

"Now I'm working on real projects that affect the lives of thousands of rural households across Africa," she said.

FILE - Technicians run electric cabinets on October 22, 2016, during the ceremony of opening a new photovoltaic power plant in Bokhol, Senegal. It was one of the largest solar energy projects in Africa in the south of Sahara.

FILE – Technicians run electric cabinets on October 22, 2016, during the ceremony of opening a new photovoltaic power plant in Bokhol, Senegal. It was one of the largest solar energy projects in Africa in the south of Sahara.

The incentive for more skilled workers in the field of renewable energy is coming as more and more countries around Africa are trying to increase the use of renewable energy sources outside the grid.

Kenya launched a new national electrification strategy in December that includes independent renewable energy systems outside the grid as a key part of the country's goal to achieve 100 percent of electricity access by 2022.

About three-quarters of Kenijaca currently have access to electricity, according to a new plan.

Part of the incentive in Kenya is a solar access project outside the network that aims to connect 1.3 million people to 14 particularly vulnerable counties, said Isaac Kiva, Secretary of Renewable Energy Resources at the Ken Energy Ministry.

"We are also now working with our education system to develop solar-specific curricula so we can build the necessary capacities," he said.

In Rwanda, the government co-operates with American universities, including Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, and in partnership with online learning efforts to ensure a better approach to clean energy training, Nzirabatiny said.

"It will have a positive impact on the readiness for employment in the talents of Rwanda," he predicted.


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