With favorable educational and institutional reforms, the potential in Africa’s budding energy sector can be unleashed and leveraged to enhance sustainable and inclusive growth in the continent. Only by doing this can Africa ensure an economic freedom and its assertive place and space in the global arena
The Role of Educational and Institutional Reform for Renewables Uptake: An Urgent Policy Imperative
In Africa, it is not necessarily a lack of ideas or innovations, but rather the enabling environment for implementation. Adequately empowered human capacity to seize opportunities in green energy, as well as institutionalizing best practice, is an area that will need to be fostered if the continent is to actualize a carbon free energy future and accelerate inclusive economic growth.
Revolutionalising Africa’s Education: A Fit for Purpose Necessity
Lack of skilled manpower has limited the success of renewable energy technology (RET) development in the continent. Africa’s higher education system needs to be reformed to be more inclusive, and align to contemporary opportunities in sectors such as renewable energy, while not compromising on the competitiveness of its scholars. Ideologically, Africa’s education system must be reformed to be Africa-centered and globally competitive — adapting best global practice to solve the continent’s challenges, while also creating products and services for export to the world markets.
The lack of alignment of the education sector to contemporary areas is limiting the employability of African graduates. It is documented that most educated people in Africa confront a mismatch between their training and available opportunities. In South Africa, for instance, firms report 600,000 vacancies, while 800,000 young university graduates are unemployed. Specifically in the RE sector, Africa is losing out in this budding sector because there are “very few” African higher institutions offering renewable energy programmes. Appropriate education sector reforms will be vital in expanding skills and training in this area to ensure adequate human capacity. This will incentivize private sector investment, seeing that adequately skilled labor is a key prerequisite to attracting investments.
Education curricula across the continent need to be reformed to reflect an African ideology; contextualized to Africa’s accurate history and circumstances, Africa-centric, centered on solving the continent’s contemporary challenges, while technically benchmarking against global best practices, thus becoming globally competitive. Universities and colleges should introduce programmes that directly contribute to solving contemporary developmental challenges, such as infrastructure and healthcare deficits, with the social sciences and arts building the right mental attitude to enable Africans define an intellectual cause for their education.
Education Finance Reform
National governments as well as the private sector should come up with scholarship and grant policies that ensure financing is targeting programmes that reflect the greatest developmental needs for countries and business so as to attract students to these programmes and ensure adequate and skilled manpower to confront these challenges. Private sector participation fosters sustainability of such initiatives. For instance, companies in Africa are offering corporate scholarships to outstanding students to study in fields relevant to their business.
Policies Restructuring Tertiary Institutions’ Research and Capacity Building
At a tertiary level, there is a need for policies that promote continuous improvement in the quality of training and research. Institutions of higher learning should institute policies that promote continuous capacity building of the academic staff. These can be policies offering periodic grants for fellowships to top universities across the globe, policies governing institutional collaborations with benchmarked global universities as well as academic exchange programmes. To promote research, institutions can formulate policies paving way for external research funding. These can be through partnerships with the government, private sector, NGO sector or with other research oriented academic institutions.
Government should develop policies zero-rating taxes on all necessary imported RE technologies, including relevant equipment, tools, spares etc. This will spur the development of institutions, industries and enterprises around this ecosystem and along its value chain. Examples of tax based incentives to accelerate renewables can be cited globally. In the USA, the state of Washington has constituted several tax incentives for manufacturers, research and development firms, and certain high technology companies intended to spur growth and job creation in sectors including renewables.
Mobilizing Sources for Funding Africa’s Renewable Energy Development
With favorable educational and institutional reforms, the potential in Africa’s budding energy sector can be unleashed and leveraged to enhance sustainable and inclusive growth in the continent. Only by doing this can Africa ensure an economic freedom and its assertive place and space in the global arena.