Giving the Mandela Lecture
By Bill Gates
Seven in 10 Africans lack access to power, which makes it harder to do everything. Harder to get healthcare in a dark clinic. Harder to learn in school when it’s boiling hot. Harder to be productive when you can’t use labor-saving machinery.
Ultimately, a shortage of power, like many African countries — including South Africa — have experienced, is also a drag on economic growth.
Businesses will not invest fully in places where they can’t operate efficiently.
A recent report projected that 500 million Africans won’t have electricity even in 2040. We need to change that.
What Africa needs is what the whole world needs: An energy advance that provides cheap, clean energy for everyone.
I’ve spent a lot of my time in the last two years working on this issue because it’s such an important advance. I’m involved with a group of business people who are collaborating with governments to not only increase energy R&D, but also to vastly increase the private investment in this area.
I get angry when I see that Africa is suffering the worst effects of climate change, although Africans had almost nothing to do with causing this.
The rich countries need to follow through on their commitment to double their energy R&D budgets so that we get the breakthroughs that are applicable globally, and we need to do that urgently.
Africa needs power now. And so there are many pragmatic steps we need to take even in advance of these new inventions.
In parts of Africa, there’s hydro and geothermal sources which are both reliable and renewable that can be exploited. There’s been a lot of work on small-scale grids and the use if micro solar. This approach can provide individuals with electricity for basic purposes, but we also need large-scale power including well-managed electrical grids.
It means organizing the power system so that it’s economic, so that the electronic bills are paid for, and so that the network is reliable 100 percent of the time.
Once we get economic viability for these utilities, then it bootstraps the economy. It allows investments that are job creating.
Read Entire Lecture At the GatesNotes Blog