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The fight against COVID-19 on the African Continent is an unprecedented opportunity to build
sustainable infrastructure to save 750 million people from darkness.
The participants in the online panel discussion organized by the IsDB within the activities of COP 26 held in the Scottish city of Glasgow in the UK on “Supplying Sustainable Energy to Healthcare Facilities in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities” confirmed that most of the people who lack electricity globally are in sub-Sahara Africa. Since the COVID-19 Pandemic, attention shifted to this inequality and the difficulty of medicine storage in areas with electricity shortages.
They explained that electricity does not reach nearly 60% of healthcare centers in these countries; among those, only 34% of hospitals and 28% of health clinics have access to reliable sources of electricity. In addition, about 60% of refrigerators used in health clinics in African countries don’t have the reliable electricity needed to store vaccines and medicines safely. The participants stressed the importance of concentrating the efforts of the international community to initiate the “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative launched by the UN, identify, operate, and maintain sustainable healthcare facilities by 2030, and work on finding renewable energy sources that are reliable and cost-efficient.
Mr. Hussein Abdullah Mogaibel moderated the panel, Senior Expert in the Energy Sector, Economic and Social Structures at the Islamic Development Bank. The attendees were Mr. Khaled Sharbatly Partner and CIO Desert Technologies Group, Luc Severi the Program Manager for Powering Healthcare at Sustainable Energy for All, and Saleban Omar a Senior Advisor, Health, Energy and Climate Change at the United Nations Development Program.
In his talk, Sharbatly stressed that fighting the Coronavirus in Africa over the coming years will be very difficult without the availability of electricity in health facilities. “We must take advantage of the financial support and donations provided by the international community to African countries to fight the Corona Virus, which represents an unprecedented opportunity to
build infrastructure in the field of renewable energy, especially solar energy, to contribute to illuminating the African continent and eliminating the phenomenon of darkness which affects more than 750 million people in the continent”, he said.
Sharbatly pointed out that investment opportunities in solar electricity generation in the medical field in sub-Saharan countries are promising for investors. There is excellent international charitable aid provided through the UN and international organizations to finance renewable energy projects. It is essential to use these donations alongside finance and equity capital and to fund projects instead of donating whole projects, which will make it more affordable to build electrical stations distributed in remote areas and sell electricity at the lowest prices. The donations could potentially be acting as subsidies toward the end-user, which would bring down the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) and create a sustainable business model for rural electrification.
Sharbatly also revealed: “The way Africa is perceived is as if it is one large place, but in fact, it is many countries with different religions, languages and diverse cultures, tribes, and local communities. Each has its way of life and ways to do business and interact. Thus, having a single “Africa” strategy and going overnight and pumping investments will not work.”
In his closing statement, Sharbatly said: “When it comes to healthcare and human life, there is no compromise. However, if you look at it from an investment perspective, the prices of medical services must be affordable and accessible to everyone to create a sustainable healthcare ecosystem. The more hospitals we have, the more accessible healthcare will be for the
community. But, we cannot get there without affordable electricity and clean water. Hospitals with electrical disruptions are in over 50% of African countries, which is dangerous for people in the ER or Ventilators or operating rooms. So, we must focus on micro-girds, local networks, and storage solutions. And direct donations and investments in lighting the African continent to
achieve the goals. Electricity is the foundation of the modern society, and today it is a basic human right and the basis of everything we do today.”