Engage youth in energy transformation for results

Saturday July 01 2023

Simon Gosling, EnergyNet Managing Director at the Africa Energy Forum. PHOTO | VINCENT OWINO | NMG


Simon Gosling, the managing director of Africa Energy Forum’s organiser, EnergyNet, spoke to Vincent Owino on why the forum is important for Africa’s development.


What did the Africa Energy Forum intend to achieve this year?

As you know, across the continent, there is a lack of energy access, and we use this forum is a tool to drive projects forward.

One of the man challenges around energy project development is that they often take too long. So, a platform like this brings people together to brainstorm how projects can be completed faster.

It is also a tool for socio-economic empowerment through as it speeds the delivery of electricity across the continent.


In your view, why is Africa’s energy access gap still so wide?

According to World Bank statistics, 90 percent of projects fail to reach financial closure because of poor business planning and preparation. This forum tries to create better business practices and preparation to ensure faster completion of projects.

But the real challenge is that there aren’t enough youth engaged in the energy sector. Everybody thinks the energy sector is over there and there’s nothing they can do about it, but that is not true.

To bridge the gap between population growth and energy access, we have to engage the youth, who are at least 10 percent of the continent’s population, in the conversation.

Read: Is it time for energy transition in Africa? That’s the question

Why do you think Africa is not attracting enough private sector financing for the energy sector?

I don’t think that’s true. There’s so much money and investments here. The problem is projects don’t move fast enough. Africa is a continent of approximately a billion people, and at the moment, the gap between energy access and population growth is getting wider.

That tells you that the current model is not working fast enough.

There are hundreds of companies here, but they are only developing one to 3 projects every ten years. That’s not going empower a continent of this size and importance. So, we need to engage people in the conversation.

There needs to be more aggressive programmes that are actually addressing how we’re going to eradicate the huge energy access gap.

Do you believe renewable energy alone is enough to fuel Africa’s economic development?

No. But it’s not my responsibility to tell anybody what they should do.

We create a platform here for people to talk about best solutions. Solar solutions, for example, are super important. They’re doing so much good and creating lots of jobs, especially for women.

But you need to find a balance between renewable energy and base load power here. But it is not for us to say people shouldn’t use coal or nuclear. We are creating a platform where you can talk about the practicalities of using, say nuclear for Kenya or for South Africa.

Read: US gives $89m for clean energy projects in East Africa

What role should governments play in bridging the energy access gap on the continent?

Governments first need to understand that electricity, in itself, doesn’t create the millions of jobs talked about. It creates those jobs indirectly by providing electricity to businesses that will in turn hire more people.

Therefore, the electricity sector needs to be really incentivised and carved out as a special needs industry.

When that happens, the focus goes to the buyer, who is in the industrial sector such as agriculture and manufacturing.

Governments also need to ensure some stability in the sector, because the challenge has been that when a president or energy minister changes, everything changes and sometimes even projects get cancelled.

There needs to be a constitutional way to put electricity access on a different level, where it is not impacted by the fickle winds of politics.