Renew-Able Against Covid, a concrete response to the Covid emergency in Africa

Renew-Able Against Covid is an educational initiative promoted during the lockdown by RES4Africa Foundation, Sapienza University, Tecnologie Solidali Onlus and Elettrici Senza Frontiere Italia Onlus. About 100 trainees and trainers from Africa, Europe and America contributed to the creation of an intercontinental network to bring clean and sustainable energy to ten medical centres in African countries in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest WHO updates show an acceleration in the spread of Covid-19 in Africa: 100.000 cases were recorded in the first 98 days of the epidemic, that doubled in only 18 days. In sub-Saharan Africa, 43 countries have completely closed their borders and 35 states have adopted measures to limit internal movements. Despite this, in many countries there is still an urgent need to strengthen the health system in response to Covid-19.

The lockdown and the closing of the borders did not stop the willingness of African, European and US stakeholders to continue to collaborate in training activities and actions in the field for the generation and distribution of energy, reinforcing the importance of this commitment during this historic moment. This is how the project Renew-Able Against Covid has been set up and involved students, professionals, teachers and university researchers who have always been engaged in the field. Most of those trainees belonged to the universities of the circuit of the “Grand Challenges Scholars Program”, the program of the Great Engineering Challenges of the National Academy of Washington.

The initiative was carried out by the RES4Africa Foundation’s Micro-Grid Academy (MGA), Field Study Abroad (FSA) students from Sapienza University, Tecnologie Solidali Onlus and Elettrici Senza Frontiere Italia Onlus with the aim of solarising a dozen medical centres and pre-identified hospitals in urban and rural areas in contrast to Covid in Africa.

Through the initiative of the Micro-Grid Academy and thanks to the contribution of associated companies, as well as technicians, engineers and experts from Elettrici Senza Frontiere Italia, that were committed as volunteers to support vulnerable populations in getting access to water and energy all over the world, RES4Africa could provide didactic support to the online training course, ensuring a progressive transfer of the skills and technical know-how necessary for the construction of planned energy plants. Born in 2018, MGA is a vocational and capacity building programme addressed to young African professionals and students who aspire to strengthen their skills and capabilities in the renewable energy sector.

The 100 participants from 10 different African countries alternated online face-to-face lectures with virtual working tables, focused on each one of the identified health centres. Thanks to the contribution of Comunità di Sant’Egidio, AVSI Foundation and energy expert partners from RES4Africa’s network such as Tecnologie Solidali Onlus and Elettrici Senza Frontiere Italia Onlus, the participants were provided with the data and technical information necessary for the analysis of energy needs of the medical centres combined with those of solar radiation necessary for the design and construction of renewable energy plants.

The experience of Renew-Able Against Covid shows, once again, how working with Africa and for Africa is the only winning strategy to achieve a real impact and to contribute in a real way to African socio-economic development, not only in Covid times.

This article, written by Felice Egidi (Elettrici Senza Frontiere), Andrea Micangeli (Sapienza University/Field Study Abroad), Marta Caradonna (RES4Africa) and Marco Aresti (RES4Africa), is the translation of the one appeared on QualEnergia, n° 3, 2020.