Earlier this month I had the opportunity to present on a panel about innovations in the design and delivery of skills training programs at Africa Oil Week, in South Africa, on behalf of Iron & Earth! It was an exciting opportunity to learn about global initiatives and share the work of our organization.
The conference was also challenging, as industry leaders highlighted the many barriers being faced by African nations as they pursue energy security and economic development. Spending time in South Africa was an eye-opening experience for me and I was shocked to learn that unemployment in South Africa is at 29% at the moment. 38.5% if including people that have stopped looking for work. These statistics naturally have an impact on energy development considerations.
Africa Oil Week conference floor
The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, presented a keynote, in which he outlined some of the energy development plans for the country, including “provision for significant rollout of renewable energy and storage." Noting that "combined with storage, renewables offer an opportunity to produce distributed power closer to where demand is; and to provide off-grid electricity to far-flung areas of the country.”
A number of energy ministers made it clear that while they were supportive of renewable energy development and addressing environmental concerns, these efforts would need to complement growing electricity needs and the need for economic development. There is currently an energy shortage in many African nations and the demand for electricity and fuel is increasing.
Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy for South Africa
Gwede Mantashe explained that similar to the vision of Iron & Earth, the government does “not believe that the different energy sources — oil, gas, coal, and renewables — are exclusive to each other, they are complementary”. He was also clear that this transition would need to be managed at a sustainable pace, stating “If we stop coal too quickly, we will certainly breathe fresh air, but it will be in complete darkness without electricity!”
These global and regional dynamics have left me with more questions than answers, but definitely a more global perspective.
It’s been a long-held dream that our work would become internationally relevant and participating in this conference was an exciting step towards that longer-term goal.
#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving and is this Tuesday, December 3. If you want to help Iron & Earth spread our mission as an organization as far and wide as possible, please donate now, or choose us as the organization to support this #GivingTuesday!
There's so much work to be done to ensure a prosperous transition to a sustainable energy future for all. Please consider supporting us this year so we can ensure workers can provide leadership during this process.
In hope and action,
Executive Director - Iron & Earth