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How China Can Boost Solar Energy In Africa

*Many people around the world, in both urban and rural communities, struggle to break out of the cycle of poverty. One of the reasons is a lack of electricity. A staggering 600 million people in Africa are without reliable, affordable electricity.

Electricity sources give communities many socio-economic benefits. Shops and businesses can stay open longer. People have access to better healthcare. Schools benefit from teaching aids that require electricity, and children have domestic lighting for after-school study time. Families can enjoy more bonding time in comfort. Societal growth and a better quality of life is made possible.

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It’s obvious that changes need to be made in Africa. Where will these come from?

In a world still influenced by companies that use dwindling coal- and oil-based energy sources, Asian and African leaders have realised that alternative energy solutions, such as solar energy, are vital for long-term growth.

China has proved itself the current world leader in sustainable energy projects, like solar power and wind farms. As a vast country with a huge rural population that is largely “off the grid” compared to the West, China has a lot in common with many African countries.

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The ongoing discussions of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) have included recommendations on sustainable energy projects such as solar power. Clean energy projects are part of ten major plans for China-Africa cooperation outlined by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a China-Africa forum held in Johannesburg, South Africa in July 2018.

Chinese influence in Africa has long been considered controversial, with huge quantities of resources such as timber being taken to China. However, the potential for investment is equally huge.

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The big question then is, how can the partnership work best for African people and their demand for sustainable energy?

Of the population of the world without electricity, the African continent accounts for an enormous 57%. Therefore, it’s vital for African countries to develop strong policies to enable them to adopt solar energy and wind energy. It’s obvious that China’s know-how in the renewable energy sector must be utilised in Africa.

The Africa-China partnership needs all players to move towards proactive management of sustainable energy projects such as large solar panel farms, smaller solar PV panel projects, and other strategies.

The cost effectiveness of renewable power is obvious – solar energy and other plants take less time and resources to build, compared with fossil fuel-based power plants. Renewable power projects like solar energy farms are easier to build and utilise. Through microgeneration, they can enable rural and remote areas to benefit greatly. Microgeneration is the small-scale generation of electrical power, through channels such as solar or wind power.

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Chinese companies are spreading over Africa’s land. Chinese miners, loggers, farmers, traders, and multimillion-dollar infrastructural investments are fast becoming a feature all across the continent. Some of these industries use up resources for their own ends – and others bring huge benefits to African economies.

China’s investment in Africa can, and must, realistically help communities achieve their goals for clean and sustainable power. Time for Africa to shine!

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