An energy revolution is taking place in East Africa as huge resources of geothermal steam beneath the Great Rift Valley starts to be exploited


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

“Without sufficient Energy, it is impossible to change an Economy” – Jeremy Rifkin

As the entire East-African region is about to experience a geothermal energy boom, it will also play an important part in preserving the planet

Experts estimate that the geothermal potential of the East African Rift Valley, a geothermal hot-spot that spans 11 countries, will be essential for the area’s continued GDP growth. Geothermal energy, which is heat from the earth, is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. This new energy therefore has the added bonus of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and since the earth constantly generates heat, it can also be regarded as renewable.

The East African Rift Valley system is estimated to potentially produce 15,000MW of electricity within the next few years. Recent, enhanced technologies are reducing the unit price of geothermal energy and thus meeting the economic needs of all citizens, including the poor. According to the UN, the geothermal boom could lift millions out of poverty within the next decade.

The good news out of Africa just keeps on coming!

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

The need for this day is due to the unfortunate fact that women are still the most discriminated against group of people. One result of the inequality between men and women is that out of the + 2 billion poor, 75% are women (USAID).

As the world’s 10 poorest countries are found in Africa, I will dedicate this blog to the continent’s rural women, and what they’ve achieved in the past couple of decades.

In the 1990s, microfinance initiatives were introduced to Africa, and they were very often directed towards rural women as they bear a disproportionate burden of poverty (80% according to the World Bank). Microfinance services, especially microcredit, focus on small loans which have been shown to ultimately help with poverty reduction. Since 2001, the WHO has published several reports accentuating the success of these services with women in Africa.

One of the most important conclusions is that women are more likely to spend the money they borrow in ways that are more beneficial to their household in the long run. In addition, they proportionally spend more of their extra income on things that help develop human capital, better sanitation, better nutrition and also better health care and education than men. Whatever these loans are used for, the results are often remarkable, and repayment rates much higher than those of men (92% according to the Hunger Project). These are the Africans that are truly changing the face of the continent, and they certainly merit their day.

Other remarkable women are, of course, found in government.  Ghandi wrote “if non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women”. In a previous blog, “Africa’s Power Shift?”,  I mention that the Rwandan parliament is made up of 56% women. According to President Kagame, whom I interviewed in 2007, the main reason for this is because women will do everything in their power to avoid genocide. I can think of many other excellent reasons for more female politicians world-wide, but that’s admittedly a particularly good one.

Africa’s Brain Gain – Implications for Kenya


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

In the past couple of years, Africa has received an ever increasing amount of good press thanks to its unfaltering growing collective GDP.

One of the direct results of this positivism has been that the continent’s brain drain is slowly reversing, and turning into a brain gain instead.

In order for this return of the diaspora to last, stability is just as crucial as booming economies. This is why Ghana has been on top of the list for the past decade.  Should Kenya have trouble-free elections in March, it is expected that many “diasporans” will return there too.

Understanding the importance of the upcoming elections, Kenya’s mobile operator, Safaricom, has partnered with Sisi Ni Amani, an NGO, and launched an SMS platform to promote the peace. This platform will allow community “peace” ambassadors to send out positive messages targeted at specific incidents at a micro level with the aim of preventing, reducing or stopping election violence.

With so much at stake, the Kenyan government has adopted a new constitution and made widespread modifications to its electoral system. A significant change is that the new laws enable diaspora voting. By giving diasporans the power to have their say, they might feel more inclined to return home and play a crucial part in the new Africa.

After all, this is history in the making, and who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?

The Africa Summit: Examining the world’s new economic engine


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

On Wednesday 5 February 2013, Economist Events successfully convened an audience of 180 delegates, comprising leading figures from business, banking, government, media and consultancies, for their inaugural Africa Summit, at the Royal Garden Hotel in London.

Gong provided media and communications support for the event and hosted a breakfast meeting, Chaired by The Economist’s Business Editor, Robert Guest. The theme of Opportunity Africa: What’s Your Next Move?  galvanised discussion among a handpicked group of companies keen to do more business on the Continent.

The Summit kicked off with a ministerial welcome by Mark Simmonds, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia followed up on her recent meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron and shared her belief that Africa is on schedule to reach the 2015 UN Millennium Development Goals thanks to unfaltering growth across the continent.

President Sirleaf stressed that in 2015 the UN Millennium Development Goals should immediately be followed by sustainability goals in each of Africa’s 54 countries, to ensure that the continent emerges fully on a global scale. She added that each African nation needs a stronger industrial basis first and foremost. Power, in the form of sustainable sources of energy, is needed to run factories, and the necessary infrastructure is required to transport the goods.

Mo Ibrahim, Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, agreed that greener energies would be required to achieve sustainability goals. He added that Africa also needs Economic Integration. “Trade between African nations will ensure vibrant economies across the continent and only then will we be able to talk about ‘Africa’ as a whole.” He continued to say that whatever is needed to achieve this integration should be top of each government’s agenda.

Dr Ibrahim ended his speech by stating, “AID is the aspirin that helps ease the pain in some African countries. It adds up to 30 billion USD per year. TRADE is the health-giving vitamin that makes the continent strong and accounts for half a trillion USD per year.”

The ex-President of the World Bank for the Africa Region, Ms Obiageli Ezekwesili, said in her speech: “We need a strategy for encouraging sustainable long-term investment into the continent. The answer is simple; the answer is Rule of Law. With political governance improving all the time, many of Africa’s biggest problems will disappear in time. Young entrepreneurs are the future of Africa. We must give them the opportunity to help Africa reach its full potential. Good governance encourages entrepreneurship and transparency and accountability are therefore key.”

Renaissance Capital’s Global Chief Economist, Charles Robertson, said that the banking sector still has “room to boom” as it is inevitable that the African middle class, which is growing fast, will start borrowing. He added: “Africa needs more stock exchanges. To demonstrate the potential: The Nigerian economy is predicted to be bigger than Germany’s by 2037.”

Olam’s Managing Director, Ranveer Chauhan, said that his company could not survive without technology in Africa today. He sees technological innovation as being prevalent across the continent, and cited it as one of the main drivers of growth in agricultural best practice.

Herman Chinery-Hesse, Chairman at Softtribe, dwelt on the importance of Twitter, Facebook and the Internet to Africa. He said, “These know no borders and encourage innovative thinking among the young through discussions and easy access to information.”

During question time, Dr Abu-Leil Cooper from Barings Asset Management concluded that from an investor’s point-of-view, “investing with Africans is as important as investing in Africa.”

More information on the Africa Summit, including a long list of speakers, can be viewed here. The Economist Events continues its African programme with the Nigeria Summit 2013, to be held in Lagos on March 19th-20th.