A comprehensive energy transition

A comprehensive energy transition: the importance of investing in Africa’s human capital

Construction of infrastructures, creation of welcoming regulatory frameworks, innovative cross-sectional partnerships, effective energy business models and intercultural approach. These are just some of the pieces of an Italian multidimensional puzzle, the one representing Africa's strives toward a full and sustainable energy access.

Such a transition, however, is based on something deeper and more primordial: a dynamic and well-built human capital. It is the precondition for any form of development, economic growth and social cohesion… but it is even more relevant for Africa's energy transition, where the vertiginous growth of technologies and the ever-changing environmental and social challenges call for top-notch know-how, technical expertise and smart thinking. Therefore, human-centred policies are key.

What we must acknowledge by observing local REs market, however, is a widespread skill gap. The fast, prêt-à-porter solution that multiple companies and governments have been implementing so far consisted of hiring competent and experienced personnel from abroad; such a method, however, feels like drifting away from one of the ultimate sustainability goals: making sure Africa's energy transition is carried out with the ownership and leadership of the local workforce. After all, the current mantra of these époques in the Continent is "African solution to African problems". Isn't it?

This axiom is valid for all the layers of the African organisational charts, from the operative positions, to the institutional environments and decision-making positions. Noticeably, it is at this level that some of the major bottlenecks of Africa's energy transition appear: according to a survey by RES4Africa, international REs investors are often discouraged by a generalised lack of institutional awareness, insufficient funding, high market risks, and unresponsive governance. Hence, it is right in this direction that tailored capacity building Initiatives should be addressed and implemented massively.

A bright example is represented by RES4Africa's Advanced Training Course, which came this year to Its 9th edition (the first in presence after two years of remote format) and is taking place in Milan, from November 21st to December 2nd. The training is carried out with the enthusiastic support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Enel Foundation, the European Investment Bank, the collaboration of Politecnico di Milano Graduate School of Management, the SDA Bocconi and It Is leveraged on worldwide-recognized competencies from RES4Africa members. The Initiative aims at enhancing local ownership of REs-related projects, opening new job opportunities, and investing on a well-trained and full-fledged human capital. This edition is seeing the participation of 60 professionals and managers from public institutions, national authorities, energy companies, research institutions and civil society organizations, belonging to 13 African countries.

Thanks to high-level lectures delivered by experienced managers, academics and technicians, the attendees were provided with a comprehensive knowledge toolbox on how to safeguard all the aspects of Africa's energy transition, from the financial feasibility of the interventions, to policymaking, strategic planning and transnational partnerships.

Such a venture, however, is just a small step. Africa's human capital must be put at the centre of RE programmes and investments dedicated to the Continent. Failing to do so would mean accepting an incomplete surrogate of the energy transition, of uncertain ownership and doubtful effectiveness. A compromise that Africa (and Italy, clearly) simply cannot accept.

Fabrizio Lobasso

Subsaharian Africa Deputy Director at the Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.

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Africa is a continent in continuous transformation, with a sustained economic and population growth, a fast-paced urbanization and a young generation of talents who is leading its business revolution. This transformation requires energy and will require it even more in the next decades.
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