Education should be prioritised in Africa to produce the skills needed to meet the continent’s growing energy demands, French energy and railways solutions group Alstom VP for regulatory affairs, policy and industry relations, Lawrence Jones, said on Monday.
African countries needed more human capacity in the form of engineers, hydrologists and geologists, as well as mechanical, electrical and material scientists.
“There is a whole range of engineering professions that we would need to cover to meet energy needs on the continent,” he said at a French Energy Forum event in Johannesburg.
Jones pointed out that almost 580-million people, or around 58% of the continent’s population, were still without access to electricity in residential areas. “This implies massive needs for infrastructural development, requiring appropriate standards and skills development.”
With more than 50% of Africa’s population under the age of 25, Jones stressed the importance of investing in proper education.
“This needs vision and leadership, to realise that investing in these young people is investing in the future. It’s a prioritisation issue.
“What is the education budget of every African government today? If education is your future, more than anything else, if that budget makes up only 5% of your total budget, there is a misalignment,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jones said that there needed to be a balance between increasing access to energy and managing resources in a sustainable way, while, at the same time, reducing climate change impacts.
“This could be achieved through developing integrated climate change mitigation strategies in energy policies and regulatory frameworks, while also developing an integrated climate change adaptation strategy,” he said.
Jones pointed out that climate change was the most important international developmental challenge of the twenty-first century, and while African countries contributed the least to this phenomenon, they were the most vulnerable.
Another challenge highlighted was the scarcity of water on the continent. “Currently, water constraint is definitely an issue and will become even more of an issue as the population grows. I am most worried about population growth that is developing faster than other sectors.”