The African continent is often “advertised” as a land where presidents or kings are corrupt and poverty is a never-ending subject that does not get enough attention from the elites. This is in part true, but judging an entire continent based on a sample of countries is biased and unfair. Nonetheless, it is also true that most of the African countries have structural problems in key areas of society such as public infrastructure, education, health, and energy.
The latter will be the focus of this article because it not only is one of the sectors that is getting the most attention from blockchain technology developers but also because improvements in this industry are more likely to provide solutions to other problem areas in Africa.
Africa Electrification Problem
The production, distribution, and consumption of energy has reached an unbearable situation in African countries due to many reasons. First, governments cannot afford (or are not willing) to establish fossil-fuel power plants in remote areas far from the main cities.
Second, the population in immense countries like Algeria or the Democratic Republic of Congo is dispersed across a vast area that makes electrical distribution inefficient if connected to just one grid.
Third, the current sources of energy are also inefficient and there is a lack of awareness and qualified workforce to implement greener and more adequate solutions. All of these led to a situation where large groups of people do not have access to electricity and, consequently, have serious limitations to improve their lives.
Africa Energy Blockchain Solution
Different options have been presented over the years to address the African energy problem and not many remain viable. The development of decentralized energy source such as solar and wind power in rural areas is one of these viable options. This strategy combined with the continuous development of energy blockchain-powered platforms could bring hope to deliver solutions that could actually reduce the energy problem and improve the life of millions of Africans.
The concept is quite simple: through a decentralized set of micro-grids spread across different small communities, it might be possible to trade electricity from those communities that produce more than they use to areas that do not produce energy or have an energy shortage. This will enable homes, appliances, social infrastructure, farmers and traditional businesses to be powered-up by community-generated energy.
One organization focusing on this is the Energy Web Foundation, that started in 2017 to develop an open source blockchain platform acting as a marketplace where solar smart meters can communicate and record all transactions on the blockchain. The idea behind this marketplace is to allow consumers to easily trade their solar energy production surplus within their community without having to rely on an intermediary or utility. The platform will not only track energy trade details but also energy consumption, the source of the solar energy generated, and CO2 emissions among other indicators.
The Energy Web Foundation has also recently partnered with Siemens to deploy blockchain technology for the management of energy distribution networks.
The electrification problem in Africa is a serious matter and it seems to be getting worse year after year. Blockchain technology could bring a breath of fresh air in this sector as it has the potential to help millions of people. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go. Governments need to be closely involved and partner with these innovative energy initiatives.
There also have to be concrete steps towards the adoption of such measures and active engagement of the community to bring them to the larger public. If these actions are taken by the various involved parties, other innovation will follow, communities will strengthen, school and hospital networks will expand, and businesses, in general, will have much higher chances to thrive in the global economy.