Astria FatakiFounder and president of "Energy Generation"
"Former des jeunes me paraît être la clé de la transition énergétique en Afrique. "
Furthering Energy Development in Africa Through Education
Energy Generation is a young, pan-African organization built on the belief that young people across the continent can solve the challenge of access to energy within a generation, using homegrown solutions. With support from international industrial groups and public institutions, it focuses on theoretical and practical training as the key to success. In this article, founder and president Astria Fataki explains her approach to energy development by and for young Africans.
I believe that training young people of all levels of experience to set up projects, create companies and harness innovative technologies, using a combined theoretical and practical approach, is the key to the energy transition in Africa.
This has been a conviction of mine ever since I volunteered in India when I was very young. I was outraged by the inequality I was seeing in the world and wanted to do something about it. Then I visited a village that had just benefited from a rural electrification program, Lighting a Billion Lives, which installed solar kiosks for charging lamps and cell phones.
The program was so simple, but it changed the lives of the people living in the village – it meant they were able to work later in the evening, helped women feel safer when they went out, and improved childbirth conditions. In the West, we just don’t realize. For us, electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... is immediate and permanent. All you have to do is flick a switch. But in other parts of the world, access to electricity is still something people urgently aspire to.
When I came back from India, I looked into implementing a similar model for Africa with help from others in my Master’s course. We started off by installing solar kiosks in seven villages in the Republic of the Congo and Mali. But we faced a number of challenges, mainly because the equipment was imported, we had to bring people over from France and India for certain skills, and long-term maintenance proved problematic. In India, there was already relatively widespread take-up of the technology, so a lot of the products and replacement parts were available locally. But in Africa, material and human resources are more scarce. I realized that it was absolutely vital to develop African-made solutions so we could increase efficiency and reduce the high costs and long lead times associated with entirely imported alternatives.
At the same time, I noticed that a lot of young Africans had some very innovative ideas to resolve energy access problems. Since they were faced with the same challenge on a daily basis, they were inspired to come up with simple, practical solutions. The projects would frequently appear in the media, but then after a few weeks of buzz they would grind to a halt, often because they didn’t have enough support or guidance.
Theoretical and Practical Training
I started thinking about a model to turn these budding inventors – often young, and with little relevant training – into entrepreneurs via an educational approach, providing them with a program that was 50% theoretical and 50% practical. This resulted in the Energy Generation Academy being founded in October 20161.
Since 2016, we have trained 14 young people from 12 different countries, who have developed functional and astoundingly ingenious prototypes. Drawing on the principle of frugal innovation, participants have worked on energy technologies as diverse as solar, wind, biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... , hydrogenThe simplest and lightest atom, the most abundant element in the universe. and even pyrolysisThermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures... , a process that makes fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant... from plastic waste.
We now offer two types of training in parallel: an entrepreneurial course and a technical course.
The entrepreneurial course is intended to train entrepreneurs and young professionals in the energy industry. Spanning two years, it helps participants transform their ideas into real-world projects by developing a functional prototype and a business model. At the end of the course, they have a minimum viable product so that they can launch a business in optimal conditions.
The technical course trains technicians in the energy industry, particularly for the installation and maintenance of energy systems. We currently train solar technicians, but also aim to offer programs in other technologies such as wind powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... , biomass and hydrogen.
We plan to extend the model to some 20 African countries over the next five years, starting in 2019 with Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria as well as Togo.
Through our dual entrepreneurial and technical approach combining theoretical and practical training, we work to fully unleash the creative potential of young people in Africa every day.
Astria Fataki is a 28-year-old Franco-Congolese entrepreneur passionate about energy development in Africa. On a macro-economic level, she has been working since 2013 as a consultant on public-private partnerships to construct photovoltaic solar power plants. On a micro-economic level, she founded the pan-African Energy Generation organization in 2016 to develop business initiatives by young Africans in the energy industry. Astria has a Master’s degree in international public-sector management from Sciences Po Paris.
(1) See the training programs on the Energy Generation website