Izael Da Silva
Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research & Innovation, Strathmore University – Nairobi
What opportunities do you see in the deployment of renewable energy and sustainable development in Eastern Africa?
Africa is currently the land of opportunity for renewable energy and sustainable development as it is starving for energy and has an abundance of resources such as geothermal wells, good wind regime, solar radiation which is constant almost the whole year, biomass so far an-utilized, etc. Africa can very well bypass the coal and petroleum era and go straight into the renewable energy era just like it did bypass the cable telephony and adopted directly mobile technology.
What kind of involvement can you see about the Universities in this special sector?
University and Research Centres are to play an important role in the development of this sector as what brings development are not equipment and infrastructure per se but capacity building, training young and bright people on strategic knowledge such as renewable energy and energy efficiency. Universities can also disseminate knowledge at technical levels to technical training institutes spread throughout the geography of Kenya such that wherever you have people they can be assured of qualified technicians who are able to design, install and maintain renewable energy systems.
What kind of partnership can be useful between universities, enterprises and institutions when we talk about green energies?
The nexus Academia/Private Sector/Government is of essence if projects are to be successful and provide a long lasting and wide impact in society. This is the so called “Triple Helix” concept developed by Prof Mike Potter in the seventies but which is very much valid today. The fact that each of those stakeholders have a specific contribution to make, working together on a win-win fashion becomes of essence for the industry to achieve maturity. Example of Triple Helix are places such as the Silicon Valley where top researchers provide insight and innovation to the industry which is backed by suitable policies designed by Government. This is something that can be replicated in Africa and transform this continent for the better forever!
Which could be your main recommendation for a successful partnership in Eastern Africa?
The RES4Africa project is a brilliant idea which will avail young and bright Africans the opportunity to acquire the latest knowledge in the energy sector in fields such as policies, business strategy, economics of power generation, transmission and distribution, technologies which are sound and bring affordable electricity to rural Africa, etc. I see this project as the beginning of a bright revolution which somehow will imitate what happened to countries such as Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, USA, etc where access to modern types of energy constituted the first step for a jump from underdevelopment to development almost in a miraculous manner.