The solution rises every morning. Mohamed’s story.

“Building a sustainable, wealthier, and empowered Africa starts with youth and education”.

Like father, like son

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.

At the start of our story, however, Mohamed was not aware of what the future had in store for him. When he was a high school student in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), he drew inspiration from his father, "A leading figure in the humanitarian work industry in Africa and globally and has developed numerous projects with intergovernmental organizations over the past 20 years"…but inspiration without a plan is like a flash in the pan: doomed to shine in the spark of a moment, and to die out in the blink of an eye.

Mohamed's flare was instead destined to last and illuminate the way towards a new era, inaugurated in the name of youth and sustainability. In 2012, he was studying Mechatronic Engineering at the University of Nottingham (Malaysia Campus), when one day he casually stumbled into a statement, posted on a door. The paper read out: "The solution rises every morning". This simple encounter had a terrific impact on Mohamed's mind, stimulating in him an unstoppable frenzy of projects and ideas, and inspiring him to get familiar with the vast world of renewable energy.

 Love at first sight

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.

A new reality

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".

Clean Energy 4 Africa is now able to attract a remarkable number of corporate sponsorship and relies on steady growth in its clients' portfolio, in Sudan and other African regions. A heart-warming story to tell, but also a living example of how important it is, for renewable energy projects, to be profitable and appealing to investors, in order to thrive and help to expand the access to sustainable electrification.

Do you think all this was enough, for Mohamed and his hunger for change? We don't either. As a matter of fact, he didn't just want to be the founder of a successful company, but he wanted to truly represent a full generation of young Africans, making their voice heard where it's urgently needed, and setting for them a brilliant example of empowerment and cooperation…just like his father did with him.

 A voice to be heard

"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.

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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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