So here’s some news that’s both cool and rad.
Famous musician Akon has started up an initiative to bring solar power to over 600 million people in Africa. Working in collaboration with Solar Academy, he’s founded the Akon Lighting Africa initiative to help African engineers to build a dedicated solar structure for Africa.
This is huge. A major part of the future of sustainable energy is recognizing what we recognize with oil and gas: certain places will have more of these resources than others. The American Midwest has been described as the Saudi Arabia of wind power, and a continent like Africa, that has an average of 320 sunny days a year, is very well positioned to be that for solar power.
Not only is this potentially huge for global sustainability, it’s huge for Africa. People tend to think of Africa as fundamentally backwards, and that’s obviously untrue. Many countries are downright metropolitan, bustling with engineers and small businesses and a population that’s 70% under the age of 35. The problem is that the infrastructure for continent-wide success is lacking, for a number of socioeconomic reasons. This could be the first step towards fixing that. If this works, if engineers and small businesses all over the continent are able to harness this resource, this will be a huge economic and technological boon for the continent, especially its impoverished central band. There have been other, more sought-after resources in Africa (particularly diamonds), but the difference here is that the 21st century Cecil Rhodes isn’t coming in to scoop up all the goods and sell them at an insane markup while destroying local culture; this is an attempt to empower the local populace to reap the benefits of their resources and labor. There may not be the global market for stored solar power that there is for petroleum, but any region that’s resource rich is in a good position. That somebody like Akon has decided to dedicate himself to helping Africa embrace and capitalize upon theirs is only good news.