Jocelyne Sambira, of Africa Renewal wrote on the 12 November 2013in an article that in five years' time, Africa might see significant improvements in energy, thanks to the recent United States America (US) led initiative termed ‘Power Africa’ spearheaded by President Barack Obama during his last visit to three states on the continent. According to Sambira, students will be able to study after dark, clinics can keep their vaccines refrigerated and businesses can work normal hours. Sambrina adds that the US government is leading the charge for Power Africa, assisted by some American businesses and by international organizations like the African Development Bank (ADB).
Tanzania was one of the three states visited by Obama during the African trip. It is no hidden secret that Tanzania is booming in the oil and gas sector and has attracted several foreign investors. Despite the presence of oil and gas in Tanzania, the country still suffers from outrageous power shortages just like several African states with oil and gas reserves. Although the continent has humongous oil, gas, coal and renewable energy reserves, the continent still suffers from serious power shortages. According to the World Bank just about 29 per cent of sub-Saharan Africans have access to power.
It remains a debatable topic on if the US or any other country can really solve Africa’s energy crisis. In as much as we applaud the Power Africa initiative, there is no hidden secret that the US is really interested in getting more oil out of the African continent in five years to come. The sickening part behind this is that African leaders are very much aware about the true intentions of states like the US. Since Obama’s recent visit to Africa, states like Tanzania have received serious delegations from the US interested in the oil and gas industry rather than interested on seeing how they can improve the energy crisis in the country and the continent at large. The discussion about revamping the continent’s energy sector has not and is not taken seriously especially during oil and gas sessions on the continent.
If the US and African leaders are really interested in helping Africa solve its energy crisis, then Power Africa should also ensure that multinationals carrying out operations in the oil and gas sector in Africa, play a greater role in revamping the energy sector. There is the complicity of corrupt and dubious government officials, who are better placed to guide policy on improving the energy sector on the continent by ensuring that multinationals involved in this sector focus some of their profit on revamping the energy sector, multinationals in the oil and gas sector instead siphon the oil and capital gains out of Africa. Those who benefit from such illicit operations are the corrupt African states men and their immediate family members while the rest of the populace languishes in abject poverty.
Depending solely on the oil and gas industry to revamp the energy crisis on the continent is not the way to go. The continent can equally benefit from the abundant sun and wind for alternative energy. Sometimes I wonder why we have state institutions in Africa that train renewable energy engineers and specialists.
The continent is also considered as the continent with the greatest amount of waste. It is possible to recycle and convert this waste to energy as is done by some European states. African governments can thus partner with the World Bank, the ADB and other organizations in the renewable energy sector to create jobs for entrepreneurial youth interested in converting waste to useful energy. It is possible to turn the sad African reality into a positive reality.
Chofor Che is an associate of AfricanLiberty.org and an integral part of the Voice of Liberty initiative. He is also a Doctoral Law candidate at the University of the Western Cape and blogs at http://choforche.wordpress.com/ .