The power to change lives
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, a look at how access to electricity affects women’s education in Africa
Hundreds of millions of Africans lack access to a power grid, which the International Energy Agency says is a principal bottleneck to the continent’s growth. The shortage is felt most acutely by sub-Saharan Africa’s rural poor, where nearly nine out of every 10 people have no electricity, according to the NGO, Africare.
No electricity significantly impairs the ability of rural Africans to become educated. UNESCO reports about 43 million school-aged children are still outside the formal education system in sub-Saharan Africa, and quality education remains a major challenge.
Without electricity, there are no computers, no radios or televisions, no refrigerators, no labs, not even a decent lamp to study by at night.
Lack of educational opportunity is particularly hard on girls and young women, who comprise half the youth population of the developing world. Recent work has begun to quantify the potential that human development investments in girls have on GDP growth rates, according to a World Bank study.
The opportunity cost of girls leaving school in Africa is significant, according to the study. If girls in Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal and Uganda had completed primary school alone, they would have contributed 20 percent, 18 percent, 14 percent and 13 percent (of annual GDP) more to their economies over their lifetimes.
The need is not lost on African politicians, and there are numerous rural electrification proposals. One of the most promising is the commercial partnership between ABB and Vestas Wind Systems to bring affordable electricity to communities that are energy-poor, but rich in untapped wind generation resources.
The Wind for Prosperity initiative is based on a hybrid, wind-diesel electricity generating system made up of ABB microgrid power stabilization solutions and factory-refurbished Vestas wind turbines combined with advanced diesel power generation capability.
The result is a stable, reliable power source and electrical infrastructure for remote areas not linked to a power grid.
The Wind for Prosperity initiative also represents an opportunity for business, government, and financial institutions to join forces and improve lives while generating risk-adjusted returns for private investors.
As the president of Africare, Dr. Darius Mans, rightly observes, when rural Africans have power in their lives, they will have more power over their lives.
For more information:
- Video: Wind for Prosperity – clean power for remote and rural locations
- International Energy Agency Africa Energy Outlook – A Focus on Energy prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2014
- UNESCO – The Basic Education in Africa Programme (BEAP): A policy Paper – Responding to demands for access, quality, relevance and equity
- Foundation for Rural Energy Services – Socio-economic Impact Assessment of Rural Electrification
- The World Bank Human Development Network. Measuring the Economic Gain of Investing in Girls – The Girl Effect Dividend. Children and Youth Unit & Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network 2011
Photo Courtesy: Vestas