Stand, Look out, Breathe, Re-imagine.
This past January has been super hot. While writing this, it is a very hot Monday afternoon mid-February and the temperatures out here could be slightly above thirty degrees. Over thirty degrees is high. I thought by this time the sun rays could have found some solace in the cloud cover. Unfortunately that has not been the case and the sun keeps ruling this side of the Sahara like a rowdy pride of male teenage lions. Nothing can stand in their way just like nothing seems to stand in the way of this wavelengths of light.
If Nairobi is this hot, what could Mombasa and Turkana be like? It was in early December 2014 when I set my foot for the first time in Mtwapa, Mombasa. I arrived in the ocean side town around 4 p.m. and it was hotter than what Nairobi usually is at that time. In the hotel I lodged for that night before I could head for Kwale the following day, I climbed to the top of the building and observed the city of Mombasa, it looked awesome save for the warm humid nights. It steamed with a huge potential.
When I left for Kwale the following day and later to Kilifi on the third day, the sun wasn’t any different in either areas. The places seemed to be kilns. Then last December I rolled down to Machakos on one serene morning, it looked so good until I reached my destination within the outskirts of the town and realized I wouldn’t stay outside for long. If I dared that, I would dry myself out. The sun rules that side of the world. And now the big question comes, how much are we doing with this sun as a country? At individual level, what are you doing to ensure this sun doesn’t rise and go down every day without getting maximum value out of it?
This topic clicked in my mind when I read about Ugesi Energy, a company that was launched days ago by the Econet group which intends to put up solar powered Mini-grids in the remote villages of Zimbabwe. The company is headquartered in Matabeleland where it intends to roll out its first few solar mini-grids in a bid to offer entrepreneurs with an easily affordable alternative form of energy. Matabeleland which comprises Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo is the heart of this project. But Bulawayo specifically will see the first five sites of this great idea being implemented there.
Econet didn’t stop there. It went ahead to put aside a line of credit worth one hundred million dollars to help young entrepreneurs flourish whilst the hard economic times. The greatest beauty is that the credit attracts only five percent interest. I was in the banks last week and business loans locally are slightly higher. Someone could be wondering, must it have been a loan? Why not a grant? Well, Robert Yawe recently spoke in a seminar I attended that dealt with innovations around urban mobility where he gave a funny scenario which comes in hand here.
The example was about a group of individuals who went to England and pitched for a platform that could help women encounter less challenges while boarding vehicles during peak seasons. The group was given a hefty sum and by the time their plane touched down at the JKIA, the award had been long shared for personal use. A loan could instill the discipline of accountability and enable sustainability for a greater impact.
Bulawayo is fertile but dry. Reports indicate that there has been a decline in the number of industries in that region as water is in short supply. With this mini-grids, there could be an increase yet again of the industries because businesses will have enough, sustainable and affordable energy to pump water from deep in the wells or from other sources. This means that the people will be empowered to a level they can develop their areas instead of waiting for the empty promises by the political class.
I started this piece of writing with a few stories that touched on the sun. My intention was to make us stand, watch out, breathe and re-imagine the potential the sun and wind have to transform our country. Solar City has been doing tremendous work in the United States of America. In the recent past, Egypt put up a massive solar energy park with 32 power plants in its western desert, a move poised to disrupt the country’s energy sector.
The impact is huge. In fact Egypt will generate twenty percent of its power from renewable energy sources by end of this project and this will dramatically lower energy costs for its ninety million residents. Here comes Econet also with yet another innovation that will see a number of sectors boosted greatly in Zimbabwe’s rural villages. Back home, the business community is complaining bitterly of the high energy costs brought about by old unsustainable consents between the state and some private ‘smart’ citizens as well as selfish corrupt deals.
It is high time we stood and made things happen here. Once the Zimbabwe project succeeds, Econet intends to implement the same idea in the neighboring countries of Rwanda, Burundi, Lesotho and Botswana where potential is also massive. That does not mean Kenya has no potential. In fact, you and me know that the potential is so great here and that if well exploited could mean a transformation for this country.
Few months ago I wrote on this platform of the paradigm shift in the economic activities in the northern parts of Kenya. Now if we can exploit to good use the free sun to provide affordable and sustainable energy to those regions, those places can change massively and much to our astonishment become our food baskets. The big elephant lies in making it happen, yet that elephant can trampled upon by one confidential move; that of simply beginning. It depends on where we stand, below the elephant or on top of it?
Let us invest in solar energy and wind energy now that we have these resources in plenty and by virtue of us being in the tropics. Having done that, we’ll see ourselves transforming our communities. Agricultural transformations as well as technological advancement for the well being of all will be achieved. Come on, let’s do it.
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