African countries should invest in decentralized energy systems like mini-hydropower and solar plants to ensure off-grid communities have access to low-carbon electricity for lighting and cooking, experts said Thursday during the Africa Climate Week held in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
Targeted investments in small-scale renewable energy projects will help electrify Africa's marginalized communities besides catalyzing progress toward a just and green transition, said Olufunso Somorin, the regional principal officer of climate change and green growth at the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Somorin believed that fiscal incentives combined with innovative financing would be key to implementing off-grid power projects in Africa's remote outposts and stimulating their growth.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in its 2023 energy progress report says that 567 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, or 80 percent of the global total, lacked access to electricity by 2021.
According to the report, for Africa to realize Sustainable Development Goal 7 on access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, the continent should leverage collaboration, robust funding and technology transfer.
Somorin observed that sustaining Africa's growth trajectory will be hinged on deliberate efforts to tackle energy poverty through investments in decentralized power systems.
Dan Kithinji Marangu, the director of renewable energy in Kenya's Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, said African countries should explore regulatory incentives in order to attract investments in off-grid power projects, spur trade, connectivity and industrialization in remote areas.
"The continent has huge potential for hydro, wind, solar and geothermal power. All that we need is investments and technology to connect off-grid communities, and drive green growth," Marangu said.
He added that Kenya is on course to achieve universal access to clean energy among households by 2030 through ramping up investments in mini-grid solar and wind projects.
John Kioli, the chairman of the Alliance of Civil Society Organizations for Clean Energy Access (ACCESS Coalition), said that African countries should leverage policy dialogue, research, innovation and knowledge sharing in their bid to decentralize energy systems and connect off-grid communities.