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Solar Energy in Africa and Its Importance

Jan 30, 2022 03:00PM ● By Anand Subramanian
solar panels against the blue sky and clouds

Figure 1 - Visual Representation of Solar Panels. Source - Pexel

Africa is a solar power pioneer, in part because the continent has a lengthy period of sunlight. During the year, Africa gets much more hours of brilliant sunlight than any other continent on Earth, with several of the planet's sunniest locations located here. As the country's solar-equipment business grows, solar energy is one of the most easily available resources in Africa. This energy source is a cleaner, and typically less expensive, kind of electricity that, once installed, offers African institutions a tremendous chance to develop.

Let us first define solar energy before delving into its significance on the African continent.

Solar energy is the energy generated by the Sun's light – photovoltaic energy – and warmth – solar thermal energy – for the creation of electricity or heat. Solar energy is inexhaustible and renewable since it is derived from the Sun. It is captured using panels and reflectors. Photovoltaic solar cells use the photovoltaic phenomenon to turn sunlight directly into electricity. This effect occurs when particular materials absorb photons (light particles) and release electrons, resulting in an electric current. Solar thermal collectors, on the other hand, employ panels or mirrors to capture and concentrate the Sun's heat, converting it to a fluid and conducting it via pipes to be used in buildings and installations, as well as for power generation (solar thermoelectric).

Africa may provide a foretaste of what is to come—a shift from centralized generation to on-site or dispersed electricity. To improve people's quality of life and spur economic growth, we need to provide power to the 500 million people who now lack it. With 25 percent of Africa covered in desert, solar is thought to offer the greatest potential for delivering power to nearly any area in Africa. Direct sunshine may reach up to 2000 kWh/m2/yr in certain regions. In the early 1990s, countless settlements in portions of Africa where one would least expect to see an oasis of lights glimmering in the pitch-black night resorted to solar power. According to, the most ambitious project of this kind, and one that is often mentioned, is a Zimbabwean initiative funded by UNDP via the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The program, sponsored jointly by the GEF ($7 million) and Zimbabwe ($400,000), built around 9,000 solar power systems throughout the nation to enhance living conditions while simultaneously reducing land degradation and pollution.

Figure 2 - Visuals from solar panel installation. Source - Google

Solar startup M-Kop manufactures an 8-watt panel with two lightbulbs and a flashlight included as well as a phone charger and radio according to the BBC. Clients make a $30 initial deposit followed by 365 daily 50-cent payments using mobile phone money, and the system shuts down if they miss a payment. Currently, the service is offered in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ghana. Additionally, a new app being tested at IBM Research's Johannesburg lab might offer the advantages of modest solar to rural and urban residents alike, including those already linked to the sometimes unstable grids of sub-Saharan Africa. The easy-to-use program analyzes a house or business's solar power requirements based on its location, the number of solar-powered appliances it has, and the number of hours each one runs. Solar radiation data from around South Africa is used by the app's algorithm to propose a solar system set-up for the worst-case scenario.

With many communities without access to essentials like electricity, clean water, and adequate irrigation systems, advancements in solar-powered technology have resulted in poverty-relief programs that combine development tactics and environmental conscience. Solar cooking is another use of solar energy that has gained popularity in rural African homes  Historically, the great reliance on wood gathering from dwindling sources has led to significant environmental damage and has been seen as an exceedingly unsustainable technique when contrasted to the renewable feature of solar-powered cooking. There is a correlation between solar energy and better food security in the area. African development programs, primarily in rural regions, seem to recognize the true potential of renewable energy sources, particularly solar electricity.

Figure 3 - Solar panel in Africa. Source - iStock

There are several growth factors for expanding solar power adoption in Africa. High solar potential, socioeconomic considerations, government efforts, solar cost feasibility, and a burgeoning ecology are among them. Because of its strong solar radiation, the northern area has the largest anticipated solar capacity. Because of their vast ambitions, countries such as Algeria, Egypt, South Africa, and Nigeria are expected to have substantial solar power installed capabilities in the next years. However, continuing expansion can be secured only with a supportive regulatory framework and enough funding flow.


 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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