‘Africa’s off-grid solar industry can create 1.8m jobs’

Full market penetration of off grid solar power systems in Africa could generate as much as 1.8 million jobs over a short period of time across the continent, significantly more than what the fossil fuel industry could provide, a recent report of the Africa Progress Panel (APP) has said.

The policy report: Light, Power, Action, was developed as a follow-up to APP’s annual flagship report Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities, published in June 2015, and looks to build on the political momentum that has been created over the past year to increase energy access in Africa.

A segment of it talked about the employment potentials in full market penetration of off grid solar power systems, stating that the overall employment potential of Africa’s off-grid solar industry has remained quite large.

“Africa’s solar industry employs a growing number of sales representatives, technicians and managers. In 2013, 15,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa were already employed in the off-grid electric lighting sector.

“However, employment was highly concentrated in a few countries, such as Kenya, and focused on the sales and distribution end of the value chain. Solar manufacturers have sprung up in several countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and South Africa but most solar products continue to be imported,” said the report which was forwarded by APP’s chairman and former UN secretary general, Koffi Anan.

It further explained: “Energy efficient appliances are also generally imported, except for a few small-scale initiatives, including a partnership between electronics firm LG and charity World Vision Kenya to manufacture and donate 20 solar refrigerators for vaccines and food storage.

“To reduce import duties, some companies import solar products and appliances as individual components and assemble them in-country.”

“Further employment gains could come from increased domestic manufacturing of solar-power systems and of energy-efficient appliances such as televisions, refrigerators and fans. Lower labour costs and reduced transport costs would offer African manufacturers a competitive advantage.

The overall employment potential of Africa’s off-grid solar industry is large. Full market penetration of these technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa could lead to 1.8 million jobs,” the report added.