Communities need to understand that energy is a driver of economic growth in Kenya and scale up initiatives to spur growth

By Pamela Kaithuru

The global community is faced with the challenge of provision of affordable energy made more complex today by climate change. In an attempt to seek solutions to problems, nations have policies and goals.

For example, Sustainable Development Goal number 7 focuses on universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy. It is crucial to eradicating poverty, improve health and education, fostering economic growth, and promoting sustainable practices.

This is very significant in that it improves the overall quality of life for individuals and communities; leads to a reduction in poverty, inequalities, and social exclusion. Further, it promotes economic opportunities, access to basic services, and sustainable development.

This requires nations to invest in renewable energy resources, enhance efficiency, promote access in underserved areas, and foster international cooperation to advance clean energy technologies and infrastructure.

Kenya is a signatory to the global goals among other blueprints. These go a long way in fostering stability, prosperity, and well-being for the Kenyan population.  Kenya is not left behind in these efforts and in this article; I highlight the importance of energy for social and economic development.

Irrespective of the challenges communities face they strive to develop. Of importance is that meaningful social economic development is understood as the improvement of the living conditions and well-being of a people. It is achieved through economic growth, social inclusion, and human development.

There are many factors that drive growth, communities have the responsibility to spur their own growth and they need to know why and how. One of the drivers of social economic development is energy.  It is a significant driver of economic growth and plays a crucial role in various sectors such as industrialization, agriculture, business and entrepreneurship, and infrastructure among others.

A focus on some of the sectors tells it all. Industries and manufacturing ranging from textiles to food processing require access to energy to operate efficiently and increase productivity.

Kenya being an agro-based economy depends on improved productivity that is modernized; such as access to energy for irrigation, machinery, and post-harvest technologies that lead to improved crop yields, reduced post-harvest losses, and increased incomes for farmers.

The business and entrepreneurship sector, the small and medium-sized enterprises, requires energy to run. This is a major sector that supports a lot of jobs in Kenya, powering the equipment and machines.

The rural population that is large and key to spurring development requires energy for the creation of small-scale industries, improved health care services, and enhanced education through access to computers and internet connectivity among other amenities. This is a priority more so with the onset of devolved government in Kenya for inclusive growth and reduction of regional disparities and consequent rural-urban migrations in search of jobs.

Energy is key in expanding and growing infrastructure, such as power plants, transmission lines, and distribution networks.

Having reliable supply is necessary for the construction and operation of other infrastructure sectors such as education, healthcare, communication, and transportation and it acts to enable the provision of services thereby attracting investments and promoting economic and social growth.

However, there is a need to consider sources of energy, in view of those that have minimal impact on the environment, contribute to climate change mitigation, and promote long-term economic and social well-being. Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal; biomass, and nuclear energy provide clean energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the mitigation of climate change and promote sustainable economic growth and social well-being.

Kenya, in the midst of notable progress in the energy sector, faces a challenge of energy deficit occasioned to some extent by the rapid growth, driven by population growth, urbanization, and economic development. Going forward, with increased understanding, rural communities have to be intentional around the energy sector.

Some of the solutions include but are not limited to the need to raise awareness about energy conservation; renewable energy options harness the potential of renewable energy sources available in their surroundings, implement energy efficient practices and initiate community-based energy projects.

This is the understanding that is very critical in order to spur social economic development with clarity that “Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”