In recent years, the continent of Africa has risen to the spotlight as an area with enormous commercial potential. Companies from around the world are looking to Africa as a location in which to reach untapped markets. Even so, development is not easy, with one of the major problems being a lack of consistent and affordable electricity.

Solar energy might prove to be an effective solution to the conundrum of powering Africa’s economic and industrial growth. Modern developers see solar power as an incredibly simple option that local communities can oversee themselves. Their opinions might very well be correct, as projects involving solar technology already have been implemented in areas such as Tanzania and Nigeria.

Reasons for Investing in Solar Technology

Investing in solar technology makes incredible sense to many policy makers given the regions obvious exposure to sunlight. Even though the area does experience some atmospheric conditions and a rainy season that might provide some hindrances, the amount of energy solar panels can capture in many areas still would be sufficient to power essential devices that would greatly improve African quality of living.

Another perk of putting money toward solar technology in Africa is that the panels are quite long-lasting compared to other energy options. According to Samuel Janyo, a solar energy technician in Kano, Nigeria, communities need to take basic maintenance measures such as keeping the solar panels clean and free of dirt, but batteries can last several years. A good-quality panel easily can last up to 15 years.

Who Stands to Benefit

Solar technology might first assist government agencies. These organizations could use the solar energy gathered from the panels to produce electricity for things like streetlights and water treatment. Industrial sectors still might not be able to solve all of their energy issues, as they consume enormous amounts of electricity compared to residential units, but solar panels could be enough to drastically change how Africans go through their everyday lives. Solar panels for homes are incredibly cost efficient and would drastically improve the standard of living of Africa's compilation.

Challenges to Implementation

Bringing solar technology to Africa will be challenging for several reasons. The first is that not all governments are willing to see solar energy as a superior power source. Hydropower, thermal energy and coal, for example, are already used as power sources, and some government officers rather would continue investing in these well-developed and familiar energy options. These officials do not dismiss the potential solar power has, but they do not consider it better than what already is in place.

Additionally, manufacturers still are not producing enough goods that are designed with solar power options. The few products that are made with solar power specifications are too expensive for the average African to purchase. This has led many communities and policy makers to call for a change in the strategies companies use.

Lastly, there is a major need for local African solar technology companies. Although countries could invite international solar power businesses to set up shop, doing so would prevent local communities from growing the industry on their own, thereby hindering a major sector of economic development.

Looking Forward

Although no quick solution to these problems exists, initial projects based on solar technology are proving successful. These projects provide hard data about the energy output basic solar panels could produce and show for the first time how much of an effect the availability of electricity will have. With review of this data, more innovative projects are likely to occur and stimulate more African development.