Reflections from Davos 2022: Africa’s Energy Transition
Davos 2022 was the first in-person gathering of global leaders and experts for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meetings since the outbreak of Covid-19 and its rapid spread in 2020. The themed, “History at a Turning Point” assembly saw over 2,000 global stakeholders converge in Switzerland to address the most pressing issues threatening world order including climate change, the pandemic and the unequal access to its vaccines, the war in Ukraine, food security and poverty, and inequalities and unemployment.
Our Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Nthabiseng Mosia, had a key function in this year’s event. Together with a female-only panel, she kick-started WEF 2022 sharing the experiences of Easy Solar in the delivery of an equitable net-zero and nature-positive business in a volatile world. In this interview, she shared with us her reflections and thoughts from the event.
What is your impression of WEF 2022 and your role in kick-starting discussions for such a privileged gathering?
As strange as it may sound, at first I felt conflicted about being invited to WEF. Largely because lately, I’ve found myself questioning fundamentally the economic and political systems that have failed to deliver equity in society. More than that it felt weird to be in a room with some of the actors that have had a major role to play in the climate crisis. At the same time charting off to Davos felt like an incredible privilege (to be highlighted as a change-maker in the global context), but even more than that it was a rare opportunity to bring to the fore, the experience of the companies like ours, and markets like ours, that often get left out of the global conversations. So much of what we do at Easy Solar is about having a deep connection with our communities and having a grounding in reality, and I think it’s important to highlight that it’s numerous players like us acting in unison that will help to build a better world, not just the major global conglomerates who often miss the last mile.
What were the highlights of your contributions to the discussion regarding the delivery of an equitable net-zero and nature-positive business in a volatile world?
I was on a panel with the Chief Sustainability Officer of Unilever, and her counterpart at Holcim, which is a global leader in sustainable construction. These are some of the largest companies in the world, and at first, I was perplexed by what I could add to the panel. But at the end of the day, I spoke the truth. A simple truth is that while everyone in the developed world is focused on the energy transition, almost 60% of Sub-Saharan Africans still lack basic access to an electric grid. My aim was to make sure we don’t leave anyone behind this time when we spiral off into the next industrial revolution, which will be built around a digitalized society and clean technology. In that world, an energy divide is a digital divide and could put Africa far off the exponential growth curve in science and information technology. There is no reason that the next Silicon Valley or tech genius should not come out of Africa, as long as they have the foundation that enables web-based tech, which is electricity access.
What is/are your main takeaway(s) from that discussion?
The last mile matters. Global leaders are starting to acknowledge and spotlight social entrepreneurship as a key sector that brings sustainable solutions to communities that are often left out of the modern economy.
What would be your assessment and your main point(s) of reflection for this year’s WEF?
- The age of fossil fuels is coming to an end. Nobody is questioning that anymore. It’s just a matter of how rapidly we accelerate the transition. Clean energy is the future of energy, and solar is a major part of the equation. Feels good to be on the right side of history.
- Carbon (and GHG) emissions are not the only concern. We can’t forget to think about biodiversity loss and land use. Tipping points are multifaceted and if we only focus on GHG we may still lose the climate battle.
- Africa is still an after-thought sadly, and we may need to chart our own course to become a major player in global conversations.