• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
businessday logo


Renewable off-grid solutions solve electricity, employment problems in Nigeria, Kenya


Access to energy represents one of Nigeria’s and many other African countries greatest obstacle to social and economic development; this has also affected job creation. Renewable off-grid solutions are changing this.

Few indicators are sufficient to draw a picture of a continent where the energy sector is dramatically underdeveloped, at a time when growing populations and prospects of economic growth would require more energy.

However, the rise of decentralised renewable energy as a solution to electrification rates across Africa—the slowest growing globally—is also bringing with it a solution to high unemployment.

As startups in the space continue to prove the viability of their services as alternatives to traditional power grids, they are starting to create direct jobs at a scale that is already comparable to local utilities.

According to a job census by Power for All, in Nigeria and Kenya the impact of renewable energy jobs are significant and still growing. Renewable energy companies in Kenya account for 10,000 jobs, only 1,000 fewer than the national utility, while in Nigeria the sector employs 4,000 in formal jobs compared to 10,000 employed across the country’s traditional energy sectors.

The mini-grid renewable the sector also relies heavily on informal work, employing twice as many people in the informal sector – 15,000 in Kenya, and 9,000 in Nigeria. “In terms of monthly earnings, the survey data does not provide a full picture of an informal worker’s total monthly income across various income streams,” the report stated.

With the growth in market adoption and investment-fueled expansion is expected to continue to grow, so will the sector’s job creation impact: renewable energy jobs are projected to grow by 70 percent in Kenya and over 100 percent in Nigeria over the next four years. The impact is also much wider once you factor in both informal jobs in the sector as well as jobs created thanks to improved electricity supply and access.

Decentralised renewable energy is also creating jobs in other parts of the world. In densely populated countries like China, Brazil, United States, and India the rise of decentralised renewable energy as a solution to electrification problem is also bringing with it a solution to high unemployment.

According to a 2019 report by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) China remains the clear leader in renewable energy employment as 39 percent of renewable energy jobs around the world are in china  with a total of 4.1 million jobs created in the first quarter of 2019. China’s 2018 wind employment is estimated at 510 000 jobs, roughly the level of the previous year while solar Photovoltaic (PV) generated 2.2 million jobs.

In Brazil, the biofuels sector remains the most important renewable energy employer generating over 832,000 jobs. IRENA’s employment factor calculations suggest that Brazil presently has close to 15,600 jobs in solar PV, mostly in construction and installation while wind energy has generated 34,000 jobs.

In the United States, the liquid biofuels, solar, and wind industries are the largest employers in the renewable energy field. IRENA’s 2019 report reveals biofuels has generated 311,000 jobs while solar and wind energy has generated 242,000 and 114,000 jobs respectively.

Globally, IRENA said renewable energy sector employed 11 million people in 2018 compared with 10.3 million in 2017 although employment remains concentrated in a handful of countries, with China, Brazil, the United States, India and members of the European Union in the lead while Asian countries’ share remained at 60percent of the global total.

“Several factors including national deployment and industrial policies, changes in the geographic footprint of supply chains and in trade patterns, and industry consolidation trends — shape how and where jobs are created,” IRENA’s 2019 report noted.


IRENA’s report noted that increasingly diverse geographic footprint of energy-generation capacities and, to a lesser degree, assembly and manufacturing plants has created jobs in a rising number of countries.

Also, IRENA’s report acknowledged that rising off-grid solar sales are translating into growing numbers of jobs in the context of expanding energy access and spurring economic activities in previously isolated communities.