Energy: what if African innovation saves the day?

The energy crisis, latent for a few years, intensified with the Covid-19 pandemic and then the Russian-Ukrainian conflict

Energy: what if African innovation saves the day?

The energy crisis, latent for a few years, intensified with the Covid-19 pandemic and then the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Everywhere in the world there are shortages of gas, wood, pellets, but also sharp increases in prices so that the costs, both for companies, in all sectors, and for individuals, have increased tenfold. At the same time, many power cuts have already been announced, all over the world, in order to avoid a total blackout situation this winter. Faced with this great global challenge, which was one of the major concerns of COP27, what to do? Each country is looking for ways to solve this problem on its own scale. Yet a few thousand kilometers from them, there is a pool of exploitable and efficient energy solutions, meeting the concrete needs of businesses and households. Let's shed some light on these.

In Africa, the strong growth in electricity demand is reflected in the sustained efforts of States to increase electrification rates on the continent, which nevertheless remain low in many countries. This demand in turn leads to strong growth in production, particularly from renewable energies. According to the latest edition of the IEA's Africa Energy Outlook, the combined share of variable renewables in total generation could increase from 3% in 2020 to 27% in 2030. According to a recent study by Castalia for AFD , the potential market for distributed solar photovoltaic energy in the residential sector and C

Moreover, as the United Nations points out, Africa's energy transition has experienced incredible growth over the past decade or so: "According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa have shown strong commitment to accelerated use of modern renewables and are leading energy transition efforts, while some of the smaller countries in Africa, including Cape Verde, Djibouti, Rwanda and Swaziland, have also set ambitious renewable energy targets. Other countries are following suit and renewable energy is on the rise across the continent. Especially since Africa benefits from undeniable natural resources: a powerful and regular rate of sunshine throughout the year, very long natural ocean borders with a coastline of approximately 26,000 km and significant gas fields.

To facilitate this transition, a series of measures will be necessary to promote flexibility in electrical systems: strengthening the planning of the means of production and transmission, optimizing the management of the supply-demand balance, developing storage and interconnections , development of distributed generation and self-consumption, active participation of consumers in the balance of the electrical system, improvement of energy efficiency, adaptation of regulations to encourage investment, digitalization of networks and adoption of smart grid solutions , or strengthening cybersecurity. With the rise of digital, many start-ups have emerged to identify concrete solutions to these challenges by drawing on the continent's various assets.

Because the energy question is all the more crucial since energy is at the heart of all development needs, whether for professional, health, care activities or to make the living conditions of individuals more comfortable. Take for example Green Algeria. This Algerian start-up offers individuals the opportunity to transform their organic waste into combustible gas. Similarly, D-Olivette, in Nigeria, designs and provides rural populations with bio-organic technologies, in particular domestic biodigesters, enabling them to transform their domestic waste into biogas and bio-fertilizer, creating both more daily energy for families but also more fertilizer for the fields.

In Burkina Faso, Solafrique is designing innovative solutions promoting the use of smart solar-powered boreholes and pumps to improve the resilience of small agricultural producers in the country, by giving them access to drinking and/or irrigation water thanks to clean energy, through a "pay as you go" system.

In Nigeria, Solaristique Nigeria focuses on creating sustainable clean energy by designing solar-powered freezers made from recycled waste. This technological and ecological innovation has the potential to make many households more energy independent while improving the cold chain in Nigeria.

These many examples have incredible potential for impact on the rest of the world. But how do we encourage cooperation beyond continents and how can these innovations be deployed beyond borders?

First, through investments by large groups in these start-ups. This is particularly the case of Total and Vinci Energy, which are very active in the search for African nuggets. Furthermore, whether they are dedicated to energy like I

This is also the case of international meetings such as EMERGING Valley, which can shed light on these various projects and promote bridges between these start-ups and the rest of the world. Beyond round tables such as "Technological innovation at the heart of the implementation of sustainable, sovereign, and resilient energy policies in Africa" ​​whose objective is to shed light on the role that new technologies could have in strengthening African electricity systems but also on how they could both optimize the planning and operational management of these systems, there is the highlighting of structures such as the Nigerian start-up E-Energietec which , using smart meters, offers African households the ability to track consumption in real time and avoid billing lags. Or start-up Motsi Technologies Group, which has set up a blockchain-based peer-to-peer solar electricity trading platform for commercial and industrial customers in Namibia. Importantly, these companies were among the winners of the Digital Energy Challenge, a program of the French Development Agency that rewards innovations in the energy sector in Africa.

* Founder of EMERGING Mediterranean, EMERGING Valley and author of Startup Lions.

** The 6th edition was held on November 29 in Marseille.

• Bertrand Walckenaer, Director of the French Development Agency:

“800 million people around the world do not have access to electricity for even the simplest household needs. This is at the heart of discussions between AFD and African countries. 12 billion euros per year are committed to renewable energies and the performance of energy systems”. Digital is at the heart of this issue. “Let us quote the majestic project of the Natchigal dam in Cameroon which is a concrete example. He also mentioned the need to create partnerships between the various actors, private and public, large companies, experts, innovative start-ups.

• Arnaud Demoor, Deputy Head of Unit at the Directorate General for International Partnerships at the European Commission:

“Energy needs in Africa are set to double by 2040. The green transition offers vast opportunities for Africa. There are many interests in improving access to energy. Investments in the green economy can bring up to 25 times more jobs. We all have a shared need to switch to clean energy. And that requires relying on digital technologies. As part of the Global Gateway Investment Package, the European Union will support a Europe-Africa green energy initiative with 3.4 billion euros for the period 2021/2027. We need innovation to meet these challenges, which is why we believe in the impact of start-ups. »

• Nadine Berthomeu, smart grids engineer in the Networks and Renewable Energies department – ​​Ademe:

"The topics in Africa, highlighted by the AFD Digital Energy Challenge, are quite close to what we see in France, particularly in terms of smart grids, instrumentalization of networks, modeling and the digital twin to identify faults or leaks. This is essential for good network management. Controlling consumption is also an important point in order to achieve a balance between supply and demand. Finally, the creation of platforms to better manage and pool data is also a shared theme. »

• Nicolas Guichard, Head of Energy Division – French Development Agency:

"A just energy transition, for African countries, goes first and foremost through universal access to modern energy services but also through economic development and industrialization trajectories that are as decarbonized as possible but with the greatest social and economic impact for populations and youth. Innovation will have a major role. There is a lot of innovation on access to electricity but which is still expected to improve off-grid systems or business models. We must improve the large-scale development of solar power, storage or even the modernization of networks to integrate more renewables but also to deal with extreme climatic phenomena. »

• Sid Ali Zerrrouki, Managing Director – Algeria Venture:

“Among the 14 start-ups of the first cohort of our incubator, several were positioned in energy. In addition to fundraising, we support them in forging partnerships with large groups. We are also putting in place mechanisms that can foster innovation. For example, any industrialist who participates in R

• Geoffrey Mburu, co-founder – Green Innovation Ventures Enterprises :

“We're trying to give more visibility into power consumption and provide more insight into market growth. The problem is that we have 20 million consumers in Africa who do not have the equipment to benefit from this electricity. So we cannot provide our solutions efficiently. Our objective is therefore to provide everyone with access to energy by strengthening energy distribution. By giving more visibility to energy companies on new customers who will access the network, it will help to project future demand and understand how to organize and distribute electrical power. It also gives control to the consumer to understand their energy budget. »

• Johannes Andreas, Power system Analyst - Motsi :

“The Namibian state has a decentralized electricity market. Consumers have two options: installing solar generator to reduce their consumption and export the excess or electricity. But electricity is affected by a lot of volatility in terms of price. The solution would be to allow consumers to stay connected to the electrical system while benefiting from the solutions offered by Motsi. »