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Cause the source of energy in Africa challenge: too few workers



In sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 600 million people still lack access to electricity, renewable energy outside the grid is considered one of the fastest ways to get energy where needed, especially in remote and rural areas areas where many Africans live.

But a big challenge stands in the way, experts say: a lack of trained workers capable of planning, installing and maintaining solar, wind and other clean energy systems.

For example, in Goma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, "we have had many significant challenges by finding many capable talents, especially at the high level," said Kveku Jancon, head of human resources in Africa for BBOXX, a clean energy company working to expand network systems in 12 countries from Rwanda to Pakistan.

Rwanda, in turn, has what Janson described as a big pool of a young talent ready for work, but still relatively few people trained for clean energy technology.

In total, only 16,000 people are registered as working in renewable energy in sub-Saharan Africa, outside South Africa, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

It is only 0.1 percent of the global workforce for renewable energy, and less than the number of people working on wind energy in the US alone in Illinois, Irena said.

But with demand growing for renewable energy entrepreneurs and for workers in product assembly, sales, marketing, finance and intellectual property, efforts are ongoing to ensure talent is needed.

4.5 million jobs

The Powering Jobs campaign, launched in October at the International Renewable Energy Conference in Singapore, aims to train millions of people globally by 2025 to meet the needs for renewable energy workers.

The efforts, led by Power for All, an organization that promotes greater use of decentralized power and is supported 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 Vermo Droeses, director of
sustainable development of Schneider.

The push is part of a wider global campaign to fill the expected 4.5 million jobs related to expanding non-grid renewable energy by 2030, according to IRENA estimates.

This expansion partially focuses on achieving a global sustainable development goal to ensure universal access to affordable, safe, sustainable and modern energy by 2030.

FILE - The clerk goes through solar panels in the solar park of Pawagada, 175 km north of Bangalore, India, on March 1, 2018. The park is expected to produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity.

FILE – The clerk goes through solar panels in the solar park of Pawagada, 175 km north of Bangalore, India, on March 1, 2018. The park is expected to produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity.

In Africa, hours are taken from India, which over the past two years have trained more than 30,000 solar electrical installers as part of government efforts.

The country aims to train a total of 50,000 installers by 2022, according to the Indian government.

One of the biggest problems facing the expansion of renewable energy supplies in Africa is that systems need to be built and operated in remote locations, where it may be more difficult to attract and retain employees, said Janko from BBOXX.

Also, even in countries like Rwanda, where "a large number of multinational companies trained many young workers," the biggest challenge is to find many capable and experienced managing directors and find senior finance managers, "said he.

In Kenya, Jankeson said, the difficulty is cost: skilled talents come with high salaries, thanks to the competition for the best people in Nairobi among companies and non-profit groups.

"The main limitation we have encountered in Kenya is the price of talent," he said.

New leaders

To provide wider employment potential, BBOXX created the BBOXX Academy, an online learning platform offering professional courses, said Emery Nirabatina, a former Learning and Development Manager at a company currently working in Nairobi for an American hearing aid company. BBOXX also launched a future leader program in Kigali, he said.

"The program requires strong graduates who put themselves through a rigorous, annual program for the development and exposure of BBOXX," Nzirabatinya said.

Julien Aikinijje, a recent graduate engineering engineer from the College of Science and Technology at the University of Rwanda, is one of the two participants in the lead project in Kigali.

As part of the program, she is responsible for running a BBOXX pilot project for solar lighting, which will be launched this year in Rwanda and later in Africa, and has worked in various departments of the company.

Work includes customer research and competitors' analysis, she said.

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

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

FILE - The technicians run electrical cabinets, October 22, 2016, during the opening ceremony of a new photovoltaic energy for energy production in Bocol, Senegal. It was one of the largest solar energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa.

FILE – The technicians run electrical cabinets, October 22, 2016, during the opening ceremony of a new photovoltaic energy for energy production in Bocol, Senegal. It was one of the largest solar energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa.

The drive for trained renewable energy workers comes as a growing number of countries throughout Africa are trying to increase the use of renewable energy outside the network.

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

About three quarters of Kenyans currently have access to electricity, according to the new plan.

Part of Kenya's pressure is a solar-powered project outside the rack, which aims to link 1.3 million people in 14 particularly insufficient countries, said Isak Kiva, Renewable Energy Secretary at the Kenya Energy Ministry.

"We are also now working with our education system to develop solar energy curricula in order to build the required capacity," he said.

In Rwanda, the government co-operates with universities in the United States, including Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and collaborating with online learning efforts to provide better access to clean energy training, Nurabatiniya said.

"This will have a positive impact on the willingness to work in the talent pool in Rwanda," he predicts.


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