Electricity: Africa’s Achilles’ heel
It is 11:26 PM during a hot evening somewhere in West Africa. There was a power cut in the entire neighborhood moments ago.
I had a long day at work, so I was squeezing in some time to catch up on my personal projects. Suddenly, the room filled with a blinding darkness. The internet stopped on the laptop. I got out of the house to inspect the neighborhood. All lights were out except for a couple of gleaming houses in the distance, sustained by revving generators.
Instead of being reassured that mine was not an isolated case, I was saddened that in some of the houses, there are students who were feverishly studying. It was a depressing sentiment to realize that so much is talked about on development in Africa, yet so far removed is reality from a posh conference somewhere in a glass-clinking hall of a luxurious hotel in Geneva.
At this moment, as I type this, I realize that average should no longer be the norm on this continent. A barely above average and noninclusive development can never “put Africa on the map”. Good enough will not catapult us to any miracle future where the development of Africa reaches a critical mass that truly transforms generations in a tangible way and impactful way.
We must start by tackling foundational problems such as access to cheap and constant energy and power for everyone. It is the basis of most activities in the world today, and it will be for everything in the future that is just around the corner.
If we cannot overcome this critical hurdle, let us do ourselves a favor and divorce the vision that the next Amazon or Microsoft is African. My elders like this traditional saying: a razor may be sharper than an ax, but it cannot cut wood. In the same light, there are many young, talented, and innovative Africans, but who are nevertheless, razors in the global context. They must be equipped to become an ax and showcase their talent on the global stage. Access to cheap and constant electricity is one of the fundamental enablers for the African youth to be leaders instead of followers and eternal consumers.
Stakeholders (private and public) are making efforts, but we must rid ourselves of the habit of being content with modest progress because it’s Africa. We must be bold and overly ambitious to have any chance at catching up with the rest of the world in the raging race to define life in the future.