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The focus on tackling the electricity supply deficiency in Sub-Saharan Africa has been on renewable energy over the last decade. In particular, the potential of solar and wind energy has been most loudly heralded as the solutions for the hundreds of millions of Africans without access to any electricity. The ability to use innovative, off-grid delivery systems with better energy storage technology without the need for fossil fuels, has been an almost irresistible narrative for most of us.
And yet, it’s never been that simple. There are still limitations to renewable energy today if we’re hoping or expecting African countries to urbanize and industrialize at scale.
An article in the latest edition of Issues in Science and Technology argues nuclear energy should be given serious consideration by African governments and points out that at least 11 African countries already do. South Africa is the only one that already operates a commercial nuclear plant, but others including Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia are at different stages of preparation.
While most of these programs have some involvement of Russia’s nuclear power company Rosatom or China (Kenya is working with South Korea), the authors argue the United States’ private nuclear energy companies could play a vital role in bringing some of these programs to fruition. It would need the US government to allow this to happen though.
So why nuclear? The case is often made of its energy density which, even in small quantities, can supply power to millions of people and industry. Also, once a plant is built it can supply “cheap, reliable electricity for 40 to 60 years.”
But yes, of course security and safety are right at the top of everyone’s long list of concerns when it comes to nuclear power in developing countries especially since they have few resources and limited technical expertise.The recent story of the panic by US authorities to remove highly enriched uranium from a research reactor in Nigeria, shows how edgy the world would be without proper checks in place.
Still, like with renewable energy, there has been much innovation with nuclear over the last decade. There are smaller, safer, more efficient, and, in some cases, much more affordable nuclear reactors available today if the African governments were to explore this option. The traditional large-scale light-water reactors will often be too expensive for most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It’s worth noting even advocates of nuclear power rarely suggest it should be the primary source of electricity but a viable, stable option to consider alongside others.
— Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor
Stories from this week
Nollywood’s growing international reach signals the broadening definition of the Nigerian film. Over the past decade, Nigeria’s Nollywood film industry has enjoyed rapid growth, with bigger wins at local cinemas, recognition at international films festivals and partnerships with Netflix. And with more movies being made abroad, funded by foreign investors or directed by Africans in the diaspora, Chidinma Irene Nwoye finds the definition of a Nollywood film is also evolving.
Ride-hailing apps want to bring order to Nairobi’s chaotic bus system—and get more women driving. As colorful and cool as matatus are, their unreliability and crude price surges have drawn ire over the years. Abdi Latif Dahir reports on the slew of app-based ride-hailing services, both local and global, that want to make the buses safer and with better standards. Meanwhile, Osman Mohamed Osman met the female founder of a new ride-hailing app in Nairobi which has been built for only women drivers serving only female passengers.
Startups are yet to unlock the funding pool closest to home in Africa’s biggest economy. The steady growth of Nigeria’s tech ecosystem over the past decade has not proven enough to loosen the purse strings of some of Africa’s richest people who still rarely invest in or champion startups. As Yomi Kazeem finds, that reticence is rooted in a lack of understanding of startup investment as an asset class.
The daunting odds of becoming Nigeria’s president as a “third party” candidate. As many as 73 aspirants will be contesting for Nigeria’s presidency on Feb. 16. But the dominance of the two major political parties means anti-establishment candidates hoping to pull off an upset at the polls will face an uphill battle.
Cameroon’s plan for a Francophone-led tech hub isn’t being welcomed in its Anglophone region. “Cameroon Silicon River,” a government-backed plan for a technology hub in Cameroon’s capital city, Yaoundé, is the latest twist in tensions between the country’s Francophone and Anglophone regions. With a thriving tech ecosystem already existing in Anglophone southwest, Amindeh Blaise Atabong reports the new hub is viewed as the latest in moves to marginalize the minority English-speaking regions.
Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations is a vital step for a people reclaiming their history. The past couple of years have seen a growing chorus of calls for the great museums of Europe to return art taken from Africa before and during colonial times. Typically those calls have been met with concerns African countries do not have the facilities needed to maintain the valuable artifacts. Ciku Kimeria visited Senegal’s newly opened Museum of Black Civilizations, which hopes to allay any such worries.
Chart of the Week
Chad Republic has blocked social media for over 300 days and counting. Across Africa, social media cut-offs have become increasingly frequent with countries including Sudan and Zimbabwe blocking WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter in January alone. But none has done so as long as the landlocked nation of Chad, which already has high internet prices and low penetration.
Other Things We Liked
The two faces of Kenyan citizenship. Ever since independence, Somalis in Kenya have been treated as outsiders, denied documents, with successive regimes committing massacres against them. Reflecting on the hardships of acquiring a Kenyan identity card, Mariam Bishar writes in Popula about what it means to be a Kenyan of Somali origin.
After the oil boom: Luanda faces stark inequality. Despite a shrinking economy and a currency shortage, Angola’s capital, Luanda, continues to expand, widening the gap between the rich and poor. As part of the Guardian’s Next 15 Megacities series, photographer Sean Smith captures the extremes of life in Luanda.
Investigating the “toxic” Swiss cigarettes sold in Africa. Every year, Switzerland exports more tobacco than chocolate, with countries including Morocco and South Africa among the top export destinations. Marie Maurisse probes the content of those cigarettes and how those sold in Africa have much stronger, more addictive and more toxic substances than those sold in Switzerland or France.
Training African health workers. Through partnerships with organizations in the UK and Ireland, the Africa Grants Program helps institutions strengthen their healthcare workforce. (Feb. 28)
Supporting computer professional development. The Google-endorsed program provides schools, research institutions, and universities up to $20,000 to improve educators’ effectiveness in teaching computer science. (Mar. 9)
Keep an eye on
Nigerian Senate emergency session (Jan. 29). Nigeria’s Senate has called for an emergency session on Tuesday (Jan. 29) to deliberate president Muhammadu Buhari’s sudden decision to suspend the country’s chief justice Walter Onnoghen over corruption charges. It comes with just over a fortnight till next month’s likely close election.
*This brief was produced while listening to Todii by Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe) who passed away on Jan. 23 exactly one year to the day we lost South African legend Hugh Masekela.
Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, funding from Nigerian billionaires and more tickets for Dakar’s new museum to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.
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