Volume 1, Issue No. 6, December 2012/ January 2013
Foreword by the Acting Chair of Society of African Earth Scientists, Dr Chukwunyere KamaluWelcome to the sixth issue of the bi-monthly newsletter of the Society of African Earth Scientists (SAES).
In the current issue we address the continent’s prospects for self-sufficiency in energy provision, particularly renewable energy, as informed by the foresight of Cheikh Anta Diop – one of the continent’s foremost scholars and thinkers. There is also a brief report from one of our trustees, Ndivhuwo Cecilia Mukosi, who attended the 24th Colloquium on African Geology, hosted by the Geological Society of Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2013.
Affordable Renewable Energy Prospects as informed by Cheikh Anta Diop’s Energy Vision for Africa
Cheikh Anta Diop, the late Senegalese historian and physicist (1923-1986), assessed Africa’s compendium of energy sources in “Black Africa: The basis for a federated state”1. We are made aware of the diverse range of potential energy sources to power Africa’s development.
Four renewable sources of energy in Diop’s compendium are of particular interest: wind energy, solar (both direct and indirect), river or hydro power, and geothermal energy.
The most common way of creating electricity from renewable energy and fossil fuel sources is to generate sufficient heat to boil water and create steam that will in turn drive turbines. The turbines then rotate a current carrying conductor through a magnetic field or vice versa (the magnet / magnetic field is rotated instead of the conductor) to generate electricity. The reader will recall from his/her high school physics, that a mere change in a magnetic field will generate an electric current. This is the manner in which electricity is generated in most power plants throughout the world, usually by burning fossil fuels (coal, oil or gas). But the principle is the same in generating electricity from renewables: we create sufficient heat to boil water and create steam to drive a turbine.
As espoused in black Africa, Diop’s “Energy Doctrine” is simply to diversify Africa’s potential energy sources in complimentary harmony. This will lead Africa to a more secure energy future compared to the present over-reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels.
Since the 1970s when Diop was writing, solar cells (used to produce electricity from the sun indirectly) have reduced considerably in cost. However, an even cheaper option may be offered by employing solar energy directly in the form known nowadays as “concentrating solar energy”. This involves focusing direct sunlight onto the focal axis of a curved mirror. The axis may consist of a metal bar which is allowed to collect heat generated by focussed sunlight. This axis may be a metallic casing filled with oil. The flow of the oil can carry heat to where it will heat up water to boiling point and produce steam to drive turbines and generate electricity in the usual way. Concentrating solar energy promises affordable renewable energy generated by modest scale installations that are small enough to be accessible in terms of low cost and low technology to local African communities.
Certain other features of Diop’s African energy plan have come into realisation since the 1970s. Kenya’s geothermal energy, being supplied through the exploitation of wells drilled in the Rift Valley region, is now in operation. Now that wells have been drilled, completing the most expensive stage of the process, there is the prospect of a renewable affordable energy source, whereby steam can be generated simply by pumping water down these wells, where the water is heated by the hot rock below to produce steam and hence to power turbines.
In Black Africa, Diop also notes the potential that exists for harnessing of wind energy in west and southern Africa. In the current day, we find that South African scientists are increasingly exploring the potentials for use of wind energy. So we may conclude, it seems that Diop’s energy plan for Africa is definitely displaying signs of coming to fruition, in terms of developments on the continent in respect of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal energy.
Africa has the clear potential to innovate and even demonstrate leadership in respect of its approach to developing renewable energy sources. But much work remains to be done and African governments can do far more to ensure investment into renewable energy sources. Renewable energy, such as solar is already transforming the approach to energy on the continent. As already noted, we witness the costs of solar cells significantly falling, and this trend is likely to continue. Solar and other renewable sources, present the very real prospect of an energy revolution in Africa. Not only this, but the emergence of cheaper solar and other renewables promises to invigorate local economies, encourage intra-African trade and engender a faster pace of African development.
The falling cost of solar is liberating African communities from reliance on the national grid as their only means of access to electricity. As prices continue to fall the affordability of solar brings within reach the prospect of community self reliance and the possibility that local communities can, through a collective effort (Ujamaa) build their own modest scale energy plants, sufficiently low tech enough to facilitate continued and long term maintenance and hence sustainability of such projects.
Report on the 24th Colloquium on African Geology hosted by Geological Society of Africa
By Ndivhuwo Cecilia Mukosi
The 24th Colloquium of African Geology (CAG24) took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from the 09-14th January 2013.
On the 08th January 2013 attended the pre-conference workshop titled “Geopark Workshop”, which was organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the
Some of the YES participants with the President of Geological Society of Africa, Prof. Aberra Mogessie, during the YES Africa Symposium on the 11 January 2013
African Geopark Networks. This workshop was facilitated by Prof Patrick J. Mc Keever from UNESCO and Prof Ezzoura Errami, President of the African Association of Women in Geosciences (AAWG). The role of this workshop was to train participants on how to create geoparks, since the African continent does not have any geoparks although the continent is rich with geological and cultural history that is internationally and scientifically significant.
Some of the Geopark Workshop participants with Prof Ezzoura Errami (middle right)
I attended the cocktail welcome function that took place at the Millennium hall on the evening of the 08th January 2013, which was an opportunity to meet colleagues and also make new contacts with other participants. The opening ceremony took place on the 09th January 2013, where the minister of the Ministry of Mines of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia her excellence Mrs. Sinkinesh Ejigu was a guest of honor.
I gave a talk titled “The Young Earth Scientists (YES) Network perspective on geoscience information in Africa” under the geoscience information in Africa session and also co-organized the 2nd YES Africa symposium in conjunction with CAG24. The main objective of the symposium was to bring together young earth scientists from across the African continent to share their scientific research with other scientists and also promote their research for the benefit of society. The symposium was well received, with over twenty participants from Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, South Africa, and Ethiopia. In conclusion, the conference was wonderful and learned a lot. I would like to thank UNESCO, GSAf and CGS for sponsorship.
Earth Science Book Reviews
Modern Hydrology and Sustainable Water Development by S.K. Gupta2This book is a gem recommended for permanent inclusion on the earth science reading list. It is admirably well written and arranged to convey a broad and complex subject in the most logical order the reader might expect. Gupta’s definition of hydrology is comprehensive and concise:
"Hydrology deals with the scientific study of water, its occurrence, and movement through the earth-atmosphere system (air, land, and ocean). It is a discipline in the realm of geosciences and derives upon knowledge and techniques from several other fields (i.e., civil engineering, hydraulics, meteorology, geology, forestry, soil science, etc) to address water availability, in terms of quantity and quality.”
This volume is arranged in the way one would expect for an approach to hydrology that emphasizes sustainable development. It opens with a study of the properties of water and introduction to the hydrological cycle, which has a central role in the broad study of the science. It goes on to successively look at water occurring as surface water (glaciers, lakes, rivers and streams, surface runoff, etc), followed by water occurring as groundwater. This includes the study of the movement of groundwater and in later chapters the author considers the methods for the location of groundwater and the challenges posed by groundwater pollution. The reader is also treated to a discussion on methods of water harvesting and other issues of water sustainability.
Generally, this is a volume that unifies a broad subject deriving its scientific foundation from the basics of mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, meteorology, engineering, soil science and related disciplines. It is invaluable to student and professional earth scientists, environmental scientists and engineers concerned with issues of water sustainability in a developmental context.
Affiliation and Association with other organisations
SAES is affiliated to African Association of Women in the Geosciences, Solar Sister, South Africa Young Earth Scientists Network, Stop Africa Land Grab and Stop Land Grabbing.
Earth Science Events
April 16-19, 2013
12th International Conference Groundwater-Soil-Systems and Water Resources Management
Venue: Barcelona, Spain
May 3 - 5, 2013
Colloque maghrebin de geophysique appliquee
Venue: Meknes, Morocco
Overview of the latest scientific developments and recent work to help the fight against the loss of environmental resources and ensure environmental sustainability.
July 25-27, 2013
International Conference on Water, Wastewater and Isotope Hydrology
Venue: Jnanajyothi auditorium, Bangalore, Karnataka state, India.
Bangalore University through its Civil Engineering Departments is organizing three-day International Conference on” Water , Wastewater & Isotope Hydrology” ic-wwish-2013, on 25th – 27th July, to create awareness on issues connected to water, wastewater, health and isotope applications. It is also to encourage the trans-disciplinary research amongst researchers, environmentalists, and agriculturists, NGO representatives from industry, policy makers, sociologists, economists and students to discuss recent developments in the concerned field
September 8 – 12, 2013
Geological Society of South Africa – Geoheritage 2013 Conference
Venue: Klein Karoo, Western Province, SA.
Conference invites papers focusing on various aspects of geoheritage, including Geo-education in relation to heritage and conservation, management of geoparks and important gelogical/geomorphological sites. There will be an exhibition of landscape art. Contributions on the role of landscape art in geoconservation are invited.
References and selected Reading, Links, etc
1. Diop, C. A., Black Africa : The basis for a federated state, Lawrence Hill, Connecticut, 1979.
2. Gupta, S.K., Modern Hydrology and Sustainable Water Development, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
3. Jordan, et al (eds), Land & Power: Sustainable agriculture and African Americans - A collection of essays from the 2007 Black environmental thought conference. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), 2007.
4. A link on “Groundwater and Rural Water Supply in Africa”: http://www.iah.org/downloads/occpub/IAH_ruralwater.pdf
5. Link to Journal of African Earth Sciences: