Eight African climate innovators are among eleven competitors from around the world that have been chosen for the renowned Ashden Awards in 2022, a UK-based charity that supports climate and energy innovation in low-income countries.
The African organizations are from Kenya, Togo, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Uganda.
They include EnerGrow, a tech start-up growing sustainable, rural electricity demand in Africa.
“EnerGrow really looks at the energy challenge not from the supply side but rather from the demand side. We are the only company on the continent that is partnering with energy companies to help grow demand for energy in the rural areas,” said Aaron Leopold, the Chief Executive Officer of EnerGrow.
He added that the current cost of supply is hundreds, if not thousands of times more expensive than what people can afford.
“What we are trying to do is, through microfinance, offer electrical tools and appliances that help people earn a living. And we are also providing small business training for them. This is carpentry equipment for the carpenters using hand-held tools; this is a refrigerator for the shopkeeper... With all this work, the energy companies sell more electricity, and the customers using the microfinance sourced tools earn more money.”
About 570 million people in Africa still go without electricity, undermining social and economic development. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the number of people without access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa has increased in 2020 for the first time since 2013.
Mandulis Energy in Uganda, which is turning agricultural waste into electricity and clean cooking fuels, has also been shortlisted in the Energizing Agriculture category.
“Our focus is really bringing opportunities to smallholder farmers in Uganda but also across Africa. We do that by using biomass energy; purchasing agricultural waste from farmers in order to power communities but also to power agricultural processing at a fraction of the cost. By purchasing the waste of rural smallholder farmers, we allow them to diversify their incomes,” Alex Theran, the Director of Humanitarian and Sustainability Nexus for Mandulis, told VOA.
The shortlists for the Ashden Awards – three prizes focused on energizing agriculture, refugee livelihoods, and energy access skills – were unveiled late Monday in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
The 2022 Ashden Award winners will be announced in October.