Youths urged to venture into power projects

HARARE - Zimbabwean youths must venture into renewable energy projects to reduce power shortages and contribute towards economic growth, a senior government official has said.

Energy minister Samuel Undenge told delegates attending the official launch of the Green Innovations Hub (GiHUB Project) in Harare recently that clean and affordable energy was the key to unlocking a sustainable future.

“Therefore, I call upon the youth in the country to take advantage of this unique opportunity to contribute to ending energy poverty, and the nation at large to support this noble initiative, grow it and make it a success,” he said.

The GiHUB project — spearheaded by Unicef and Development Reality Institute (Dri) — is expected to provide funding to young people to run projects that address energy challenges, with a specific focus on smart energy, such as solar, biogas and hydropower among others.

Among the youths, who have moved to embrace the opportunities in the energy sector are prominent businessman Wicknell Chivayo, whose company is involved in a number of power projects countrywide.

And as a result of his efforts, the flamboyant merchant has been named businessman of the year by a local radio station.

Economic experts say the project will go a long way in dealing with youth unemployment, which is increasing quickly due to massive company closures and low aggregate demand in the country. Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is estimated to be above 80 percent although government insists the figure is at 11,3 percent.

Speaking at the same event, Unicef official Amy Wickham said the project comes at a time when there are increased reports of climate change and environmental degradation affecting children in Zimbabwe

“Energy demand in Zimbabwe is growing gradually, and access currently remains low with a national average of 40 percent and of only 19 percent in rural areas— it is clear that this situation is not sustainable,” she said.

The country currently produces around 1 200 megawatts (MW) of power against a daily demand of 2 200MW resulting in massive load-shedding schedules that last up to 18 hours a day.

Despite growing calls for the country to embrace sustainable renewable energy solutions, local communities still face a number of barriers such as finance, technology, awareness and user participation from having access to electricity.

Wickham noted that the GiHUB programme seeks to address these barriers and in doing so, create a platform for the youth to innovate around smart energy and to facilitate the transformation of these ideas into practical solutions that address real social challenges faced by local communities.

“Unicef is interested to support this programme as it will capacitate the youth in the clean energy and innovative space,” she said.

“The piloting and scale up of successful innovations which aim to reduce climate-induced risks, improve wellbeing and protect and strengthen adaptive basic social service delivery systems, shall improve their health, education and wellbeing, and shall do so in a way which is sustainable,” she added.

A recent research by the United Nations indicates that lack of energy access in primary schools impacts 291 million children, while indoor smoke pollution results in 300 000 deaths of African children under the age of five annually.

The report also noted that 60 percent of fridges used to store vaccines in Africa lack access to reliable electricity and 105 million children are unvaccinated.

 

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