Africa Needs Abundant Energy, Including Nuclear Power

An enthusiastic appeal for bringing Africa into the 21st Century was presented at the April 9 Schiller Institute conference by Princy Mthombeni, a young woman from the “beautiful country called South Africa”. Ms. Mthombeni is Nuclear Communication Specialist and Founder of Africa4Nuclear, an advocacy campaign that promotes nuclear to contribute to transforming the continent “into a global powerhouse of the future”.

In Africa today, she noted “over 640 million people” still have no access to electricity, according to the African Development Bank. And although the continent is home to almost one fifth of the world’s population, it accounts for less than 4% of global electricity use.

She then gave a few shocking comparisons on the reality of energy consumption, as compared to Great Britain or the United States.

  • “A kettle boiled twice a day by a family in Britain uses five times as much electricity as a person in Mali uses per year.
  • “An Ethiopian takes 87 times longer to consume 150 kWh of electricity than someone in the United Kingdom.
  • “A Tanzanian takes 8 years to consume as much electricity as an American consumes in one month.
  • “A freezer in the United States consumes 10 times more electricity than a Liberian use in one year.”

Access to energy is crucial, Princy Mthombeni stressed, for unlocking the continent’s economic potential and therefore lifting many people out of poverty. Nuclear medicine is also a field that Africans should develop, in her view.

After reviewing  encouraging development projects with nuclear and other technologies in various African countries, including her own, she again insisted that “one cannot talk about sustainable development or even civilization while millions of people are still living in poverty and are still without electricity and clean water.”

As for much publicized “net zero carbon emissions by 2050”, she criticized the developed nations that “have placed the burden of ‘addressing pollution challenges on African states’”.  They “are persuading our leaders to phase out fossil fuels, especially coal in our countries. And yet they have not done so in their own countries. What is even worse, is them dictating on the type of renewable energy sources that we should implement, and they do that through funding terms and conditions.”

They usually recommended wind and solar sources, but such technologies “alone will not solve Africa’s problem of lack of infrastructure and development” and emissions should not be reduced “at the expense of the poor Africans”.

Princy Mtombeni’s speech can be read in full here or watched here.

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