The dark continent moniker applied to Africa has had a perhaps more accurate meaning in the post industrial age. As other continents in general began to electrify the places humans lived, much of Africa lagged behind. This is in large part due to many of the previous realities that have made it lag behind on other agreed markers of ‘civilized’ places. Living in Kenya I would often think of how a country so bathed in sunlight during the day was woefully dark at night. When you see of the earth at night certain continents twinkle and shine like a Nebula of stars and Africa is more like a few disparate constellations.
How is it we as a human race have found ways to power space stations capable of streaming these telling images while so many on earth remain without what some now consider a given?
Geographically Africa is massive, many underestimate how much so. This is partially as a result of turning something globular into into a flat readable map. I often use the example that it takes roughly 3 hours to fly the length of the Sahara dessert, which is roughly the same amount of time it would take to fly from the bottom of the USA to Canada. As we are on the topic, the natural features are also varied in the sense that it separates the people’s that live within areas and reduces the ability to engage in commerce that is as good an engine for technological advancement as any.
This physical separation has played a part in the tribal nature of many of the peoples. Diversity is not always a strength and what may result in excelling in varied physical abilities having disparate languages, values, goals, customs etc reduces the social cohesion that strengthens the ability to come together, marshal resources and coordinate one large scale advancements.
There is also the weather, or more specifically the sunlight. I’ll take Kenya as an example, with the equator roughly bisecting the country , 12 hours of day and 12 of night fluctuate by possibly a few minutes at most throughout the year. When the time is kept in Swahili it is actually shifted in number by 6 hours off the traditional English clock, as in 7 am is called sa moja. literal translation is ‘The time is 1.’ Whatever time it is in the common 12 hour clock add or subtract 6 and you get the time. Daylight savings are not kept, there is a regularity to the days that people become very accustomed to. Seasons tend to be hot, sunny and rainy, to not so hot, still kind of sunny and varied amounts of rain. In most of Africa the one natural disaster to deal with is drought. A case can be made that much of the continent suffers from a regular abundance of sunlight.
Akon a successful singer and performer began what is now the Akon Lighting Africa | Solar Power Initiative years back with the intention to electrify countries with thorough solar power and other forms. Taking advantage of the same solar energy that causes the occurrence of the massive Sahara and the regular droughts. There are challenges in this of course but I was glad to see how far it has come. Solar power is nothing new despite what many think, It has been known of an used for over 100 years buy humans, and by all life since before plants existed that could photosynthesize.
If there was a way to practically harness the continents abundance of sunlight one could be a godsend to many. I wish Akon the best in his endeavors. I can get behind private individuals coming coming together to address public concerns any day. People tend to be the most careful when using their time and resources on things they directly care about, and this invariably produces the most effective and positive results.
Technology is quite amazing though. And again they are not secrets. When people are willing and able to seek profit they soon realize it is quite effective to do it by providing others with something they benefit in. I know little to nothing of how the computer I am using is made. I do not know one person that was directly involved in its creation, nor anyone involved in the maintenance of the internet signal I am using to send what is typed to the servers at WordPress likely through the undersea cable that was connected relatively recently to Kenya. Many reasons to believe that advancements in the ease of using thing you may not understand in the least may address many issues plaguing people around the world.*
Many of the challenges in Africa are of the individual. As mentioned Solar power is not a secret, let alone the amount of sun. But much like other social advancements of other countries some technological ones in African countries have been held back by other realities.
Some things do take leadership, take an exceptional or focused visionary to help a project and bring it to light. Occasionally these are thwarted by the opposite of an exceptionally dedicated to thwarting advancement person or structure. I have concerns of the political and social realities facing initiatives such as Akon’s. I have reasons both to hope it may work but many to doubt.
Can hope that political and other concerns do not continue to thwart attempt people take to improve their lives. I understand some people misguidedly think they are helping when they are not by miss-allocating funds and distributing wealth after siphoning enough off themselves. I get that they’re looking out for their self interest and don’t see or care to think others can as well. I get that some people haev lower IQ’s and concern may be there for whether they can help themselves or not. I get that deferral of gratification is not a given but somehtign hard earned. I get that some would rather whinge about cultural appropriation of hairstyles and ignore the positives of appropriating means and technologies to have electricity and much more. I get that but despite that I also get regular electricity when in Kenya and slowly but surely many in Africa are going to be able to say that.
- Post on the regular power outages that were once more common. This is Nairobi
- Earth from space pictures
- Macro capturing how some take electricity for granted.
Made it in part by being in Nairobi for 2 months but thanks fossil fuels for only 1 minor power outage over that entire time
- *Strip I made about my frustrations
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