“Building a sustainable, wealthier, and empowered Africa starts with youth and education”.
Mohamed Alhaj is from Sudan, he is 31, and he considers himself a fully-fledged problem solver. As he says, engineers "Don't just build things: they also solve problems, analyse patterns, deduce insights, and adapt to constraints". This skillset is exactly what a proper advocate of the energy transition needs, as the path towards sustainability requires adaptability, creativity, and boldness.
Mohamed's encounter with renewables was more than a summer fling. He explains to us that his passion for green energy didn't just represent a valuable opportunity for career and personal growth, as it is "Fuelled by a determination to leave a positive impact on the World". Driven by such a noble principle, Mohamed invested "A lot of time and money in developing [his] understanding, expanding [his] network, and building expertise in renewable energy industry", diving deep into the meanders of decentralised energy technologies, and acquiring the business mindset that, as we know, is a precondition to ensure the success of renewable energy projects.
Nevertheless, Mohamed's quest for knowledge led him to a realisation which, potentially, can be more valuable than any amount of academic expertise. While pursuing his PhD, he understood that the African energy transition is complicated, full of complexities, and it unravels across a multitude of different areas and themes, such as "Education, policy, governance, socio-economic development, finance […], and the youth development agenda".
This is, literally, music to our ears, music that Mohamed plays with his wise and insightful words: "Africa is the youngest population in the world, with 70% of Sub-Saharan Africa under 30. Youth don’t just play a role in Africa’s sustainable energy transition; they are the real agents of change!”. A statement full of energy and hope…but if we stop for a moment and ask ourselves what we are doing, practically, to transform such a vision into reality, the answer is quite discouraging: not enough.
Mohamed, in turn, was not keen to be a mere witness of such a situation. He took the bulls by the horns and created something that, in a few years, would become a reference point for those young Africans who are determined to get their hands dirty, in pursuing the mission of realising the energy transition.
This new reality is called Clean Energy 4 Africa.
When launching Clean Energy 4 Africa, Mohamed's mission was brave but actually quite simple: he wanted to be at the service of the others, sharing with the African youth tips, knowledge and skills about renewable energy. The project started off as an ordinary Facebook page, one of the many created every day. But Mohamed's initiative had something more, and it soon started thriving: a full team, a blog, a website, a LinkedIn page, a YouTube channel, a podcast, and a vibrant and ever-growing young community spread all over the world.
Clean Energy 4 Africa became a guiding light for young African changemakers, by offering a wide set of contents, initiatives and projects made by the youth, for the youth. As Mohamed explains to us, they have "Published numerous articles, hosted many webinars, implemented several training events, conducted many market intelligence studies, mentored and trained youth from across the continent, and became a trusted source of information on Sudan’s solar energy market.". And sure enough, such a powerful initiative couldn't go unnoticed: the UN Major Group for Children & Youth recognised it among the top youth projects globally supporting SDG7. Clean Energy 4 Africa was also appointed member of the Youth Sustainable Energy Hub, a member of the Global Waste Cleaning Network, and it is one of the signatories to the #Powering1BillionLivesby2030 Compact.
A laudable venture, but also a financially sustainable one: Mohamed comments that, one of the greatest challenges faced when launching Clean Energy 4 Africa was "How to integrate the business mindset with the long-term vision and goals of this initiative. As a young and passionate clean energy advocate, I was always driven by the desire to help others and volunteer. […] Gradually, as our impact became bigger, and thanks to the advice and mentoring of many dear friends, I realised the importance of building a financially sustainable model for this initiative to thrive and hopefully transform soon into an actual company".
"The energy, passion, and perspective that youth bring in the energy transition dialogue should be seen as a main input in any policymaking process. […] Youth are also the generation that will be most affected by climate change in the future, and hence their contribution and role should be seen as intrinsic in the energy transition agenda".
Mohamed's words echo what international institutions, organisations and energy actors are realising every day more: the outcome of the battle against climate change lies in the hands of the youth, with all due respect to policymakers, politicians, and white collars. Involving African young generations in decision-making processes is no longer an option, but an urgent necessity to be fulfilled as soon as possible. On this idea, Mohamed and RES4Africa found themselves completely aligned.
As a matter of fact, our protagonist was elected as Chairman of the newborn Youth Task Force, a panel of young representatives from important international organisations, operating in the renewable energy sector. Their task is challenging but more vital than ever: conveying the youth’s voice to shape policymakers' opinions, providing a platform to propose and discuss priority areas of action while identifying new synergies in youth’s role, within RES4Africa programmes, and in its network of members from the international renewable energy sector.
We don't know what the future may hold, but of one thing we are certain: with Mohamed's efforts, Africa's energy transition is now younger than ever. Stay tuned.