The sun is a source of free energy which can be used to produce electricity as well as heat. Solar power has the potential to bring energy to virtually any location without the need for large scale infrastructural developments. However, the production of solar electricity relies on active solar technology.
SERVE’s partner Young Africa (YA) Namibia is located in a township called Kuisebmond in Walvis Bay. The Young Africa Centre provides practical skills training in installation and maintenance of solar panels in combination with other solar technologies. As there was no existing practical skills training in solar technology, without any entry level requirements, YA developed the course with support from local businesses and people experienced in solar technology. With a 60% unemployment rate among young people in Namibia, the YA employable skills training courses were welcomed by young people.
World Bank analysis shows that Namibia is fast approaching a serious crisis in energy. Electricity demand is growing rapidly, pushed by urbanisation and the mining sector. Long term agreements to purchase electricity from neighbouring countries expired in 2014. The country has not built any new significant generation capacity since independence. Wholesale electricity prices have risen by double digit rates in past several years. With other African countries like South Africa and Rwanda, leading the way in solar technology – producing electricity for thousands of rural homes, schools and hospitals, it is clear that access to solar power is essential for the reduction of poverty and promotion of economic growth.
With funding support from Electric Aid and Lloyds TSB NI Foundation, SERVE are supporting Young Africa Namibia’s Solar Technology Skills Training Centre.
During the initial set up of the training centre, nothing was left to waste. Shipping containers that were used to ship equipment from the Netherlands were incorporated into the training centre. This provided materials for fencing and classrooms. A simulation roof was also constructed to train students in mounting photovoltaics’ (PVs) systems on the three most common roof types – tiles, fibre cement and corrugated roof sheeting.
In early 2014, YA Namibia opened its doors and 25 young people enrolled in the Level 1 Solar Tech Course, with a graduation rate of 72%. 5 graduates from the Level 1 Solar Technology Course immediately gained employment following their graduation. 13 of the Level 1 graduates decided to continue their education and enrolled in the Level 2 Solar Technology course, from which they graduated just before Christmas.
The YA Skills Centre is now producing excess solar energy. This is being used by the Rural Constituency Office (where the YA Skills Centre is based) who allow YA to use their premises free of charge.
Life Skills Training is also an important element of the Solar Technology course which is mainstreamed throughout all of Young Africa’s campuses in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia. The Life Skills programme, with a special attention on HIV and AIDS awareness, stimulates students to grow in self-confidence so that they can shape their future. Evaluations of the life skills course in Namibia showed that it helped students to visualise what they want to become in life, plan steps on how to get there and avoid risky behaviour that could threaten their plans.
In line with all of Young Africa’s courses, graduates also have the opportunity to access a micro credit loan. This is to support them to set up their own business and provide an income for themselves and their families. SERVE and Young Africa believe that if we invest in young people, they can be the positive change makers of our future.
We are excited to be involved with this solar power initiative which is rapidly expanding across Africa. We know that relying on coal, oil and natural gas threatens our future and the future of our planet with toxic pollution, climate change and social unrest cause by declining fuel supplies. Instead of relying on unsustainable fossil fuels, we must transform economies and learn to flourish on the planet’s abundant supply of renewable energy- and the youth of Namibia are leading the way! It is expected that after the development of a larger Skills Training Centre in Walvis Bay, there will be 10 courses available to over 1,000 young people per year by 2018.