By Basil Malaki
There is an expansive potential of solar power in Tanzania that could provide the much-needed energy for rural communities, according to preliminary findings from a World Bank renewable energy resource-mapping project. For solar power potential to be fully realized, social inclusion is indispensable; in exploring opportunities in the renewable energy sector, youth must be at the centre of the conversation.
In talking of youth and gender inclusion, she noted the low number of female attendees of the Dialogue, and flagged we need to continually address these issues with youth (and by youth!), if we want the existing opportunities to be fully explored and captured.
In a series of monthly Energy Dialogues hosted by the Energy Change Lab and partners, we convened 30 young Tanzanians ranging from 18 - 35 years old to engage, share skills and learn about specific energy-related topics. The guest speaker of the April 2018 Dialogue was Prosper Magali, co-founder of Ensol Tanzania; a youthful energy expert who traversed the available renewable energy opportunities in Tanzania.
Speaking during the event, Prosper Magali pointed out laxity of youth in formalizing their businesses as a major challenge limiting youth engagement in the renewable energy sector. “The energy sector is a highly competitive sector with numerous opportunities for youth. However, since most stakeholders in the sector prefer to deal with legally registered entities, there is a need to formalise these youth-run businesses, so they can tap into available opportunities,” he said. It only costs Tshs 20,000 (approx. 10 USD) to register a company in Tanzania today, which is relatively affordable for an average youth to comply with the standard business registration procedures of Tanzania.
Responding to a question from Sugwejo Kaboda, a youth attendee of the Dialogue, on how policies favour or hinder youth to tap into the existing opportunities; Magali stated there is political will from policymakers to support the sector. Sadly, involvement of youth who can actively advocate and build evidence on energy policies that need to be addressed to favour youth, is still low. This was connecting to an earlier observation of Nuria Mshare, the Energy Change Lab - Youth Program Manager. In talking of youth and gender inclusion, she noted the low number of female attendees of the Dialogue, and flagged we need to continually address these issues with youth (and by youth!), if we want the existing opportunities to be fully explored and captured.
Consolata Faraja, another Dialogue attendee, appreciated contributors of the session, suggesting that future Energy Dialogues should involve more youth and women from different backgrounds such as academic institutions, where most youth are still trying to figure out career choices and can be easily reached. She emphasised that social inclusion in the energy sector is a crucial element for addressing youth unemployment and poverty.
In conclusion, the Energy Dialogue was graced by youth who left inspired by Prosper Magali who touched on a wide range of practical issues relevant to the aspiring young energy entrepreneurs - ranging from an in-depth diagnosis of the current and future opportunities and growth prospects of the energy sector, while highlighting the relevance of building effective teams in establishing successful companies and sustainable business models. He further asserted that, however rosy the renewable sector might be at present, there are challenges and opportunities that will emerge when the Rural Energy Agency (REA) reaches off-grid areas currently experiencing a huge renewable energy boom. He called on private renewable energy stakeholders, the state-owned utility and other government agencies to work in harmony despite some policy limitations that threaten sustainable formation and operation of renewable energy companies in Tanzania – these are now gradually being addressed.
The next Energy Dialogue will be about Women Inclusion in the Energy Sector. Keep an eye on this website and our social media channels for further updates.