Friday, 19 September 2014

21st century, African Industrial Revolution, and or Renaissance

For so long until the mid of the eighteenth century, the world economy was low and flat, the way of living was basic and almost similar and vulnerability for casual diseases was common everywhere. As history told, everything becomes different soon after the invention of steam engine at about 1750. In some parts of the world, the economy took off tremendously and the difference in the living standards soared while it virtually stayed the same, for long, in most parts of the world before it spread around over the past fifty years or so.

Behind the invention of steam engine in the era of industrial revolution, it was energy which actually has been driving the world’s economy forward. Ever since, and off course, until recently, only a few countries, mainly the west, took advantage of the then technology and boosted their economy beyond their consumption and accumulated a lot of wealth.

As time goes by, some of the rest of the countries realized the development path and tried to catch up from behind and changed their history as well. The rest of the world, however; were supplying raw natural resources to the leading economies and would not be able to achieve any significant growth. Later, the imperial rule of Europe made the situation even worse. Overtime, the rise in population without significant parallel growth in their economies makes the living condition even complicated. That has been exactly what happened to Africa in the past few centuries.

Since recently, Africa seems to level the ground for its own industrial revolution in the 21st century which I optimistically call it African renaissance. Bold decisions, which some time ago considered miraculous, are being taken by most of African countries at an individual level or in collaboration of regional, continental and/or international partners. The best example for this internal drive is the amount of energy and commitment Africans are paying to the development of their energy resources and infrastructure.

The amount of energy consumption has been a measure of economy and by that standard the continent’s overall energy production and hence consumption is currently comparable only to a single country in the west which is an indication of how wide is the energy supply and demand gap existed. To a population of close to a billion people, about 125 GW of power has not been sufficient enough for basic services let alone drive the economic growth.

The recent, oil and gas discoveries, the expanding renewable energy power projects, such as the Ethiopian grand and renaissance dam on the Blue Nile River/6,000MW/ and  the Inga dam on the Congo River/43,200MW/, the regional and cross border power grid integration projects are all reflections of the energy investment prospect across the continent.

The finances pledged by the US Power Africa initiative/$7B/, the World Bank Group/$5B, the African Development Bank/x$0.6B/, the European Union/$0.5B/, Sweden/$1B /, GE/$2B/, Black stone Group and Dangote Industries/$5B/, and other private investors/$14B/ etc. are clear indications of how much effort the continent is putting to make the energy investment a reality over the coming couple of decades. Mobilizing these external pledges together with their internal resources will not be easy though. It requires coordination and hard work more than ever before.

The African Union, the continental body, through its Energy and infrastructure department, has also developed a program for infrastructure development in Africa, PIDA, to bring together, all the existing and previous initiatives, under one coherent program and to take advantage of, mainly, the prevailing energy investment opportunities in the continent.

If all the promising investments on energy go well and fully materialized, not only the energy poverty is eliminated but also the growth trajectory of the economy of the continent is shaken up and the African Renaissance will be a reality in this 21st century.

As opposed to that of the late industrial revolution, however; inclusive and environmentally friendly growth, as it should also be in everywhere else, is going to be as crucial as the growth in the economy of the continent for sustainability in the generations to come.

Good Luck Africa!