Investing in new off-grid and mini-grid technologies to extend energy access across Africa will be instrumental in helping smallholder farmers to meet rising food demand, according to a new report.
Africa accounts for just six per cent of the world’s demand, despite hosting 20 per cent of the global population, leaving rural areas relying on manpower for as much as 80 per cent of the energy used in farming.
In Energized: Policy innovation to power the transformation of Africa’s agriculture and food system, experts from the Malabo Montpellier Panel highlighted opportunities for greater access to transform the livelihoods of the rural poor, reducing the drudgery of their work and generating higher incomes.
The rapid spread of off-grid and mini-grid solutions for renewable energy offers hope that Africa can leapfrog outdated and dirty technologies, with almost five million families installing solar home systems in 2018, the authors said.
But achieving universal energy access will require a fourfold increase in investment to US$120 billion a year by 2040.
“As demand for food continues to grow globally, universal access to energy will become an urgent necessity, both for the production, processing and consumption of more nutritious food,” said Ousmane Badiane, co-chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel, which met in Gambia for the Malabo Montpellier forum.
“Access to reliable, affordable and sustainable sources of energy to prepare land, plant, harvest, process, distribute and cook food, will ensure that Africa’s agricultural sector can respond to this demand, all within the context of climate change and increasingly scarce natural resources.”
The report made several recommendations to help Africa achieve widespread sustainability use that supports agricultural productivity. These included integrated policies for agriculture, energy and health, a cross-border framework for energy security, and investing in innovative, alternative solutions such as mini, micro and nano grids in additional to conventional sources of power.