There cannot be prosperity without energy.
I was born in Maiduguri, a town in northeastern Nigeria near the Chadian border. While I have always had great interest in the sciences, it was only in 2011 that I took an interest in energy. My extended project at sixth form looked at the possibility of a world powered by renewables. Shortly after, I chose to specialise in chemical engineering at the University of Oxford where I focused on alternative energy sources. Currently, I am pursuing a PhD in energy systems at Imperial College London.
While I was privileged enough to get a decent education, many were stuck in the poverty trap set by decades of systematic exploitation, corruption and bad leadership. Borno, Maiduguri's state, has gained a reputation as a hotbed of poverty and terrorism, which overshadows its rich culture and history. Climate change has compounded to the sources of conflict, with increasingly scarce agricultural land and water resources forcing farmers and animal rearers to stray further afield into disputed territory. Sustainable development is the only means to achieve economic development while fostering social welfare.
The story of global development begins with energy. It is the engine that has driven mobility, industry and innovation — the bricks of modern civilisation. Though Africa has fed this engine with its natural and mineral resources, the prosperity it brought to the world has barely trickled back into the continent. Now the fossil fuels that have spurred global economic growth for centuries threaten to be its inhibitor.
An unprecedented energy transition must take place to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change. This transition presents new opportunities for Africa. But opportunity has never favoured the ill-prepared. Africa cannot afford to, yet again, be pedestrians on the road to sustainable development. We must educate ourselves on the challenges of the future, and the effective tools with which we can design and implement solutions. The challenge of development in a carbon-constrained world will be at the fore, that is why I have chosen this path.
Doctoral Researcher in Energy Systems Transitions