Could Spain and Nigeria be great business partners for resolving unemployment and energy crisis?
The recent global economic crisis has left its mark on the most prosperous of nations and the least. Governments all over the world decided to “rescue” the banks by giving them loans and injecting an absurd amount of money to prevent what would be another economic catastrophe.
What happens to average citizens now that the banks and governments are back on their feet? We still have to resolve the difficulties of unemployment, climate change, and irregular immigration, and very few people in the public eye have real solutions to these problems. Politicians adopt the rhetoric of their political parties; maintain circular arguments, which have no specific solutions, in order to confuse the public.
One of these countries suffering from high unemployment, climate change, and irregular immigration is the Kingdom of Spain, which is one of the ten largest economies of the European Union (five times larger than Greece). It is recorded that over 25% of the viable workforce is unemployed – double the average in the European Union.
Recently, austerity measures that the government and companies have taken in order to lower the unemployment rate and external debt seems to be contrary to popular opinion as many employees have to work more hours, take a reduction in salary, pay more taxes, take less vacation time, and among other things, accept a hike in costs of transportation and energy. All of these factors contribute to the reduction of local spending and consumption.
Although local industries like tourism, hospitality, and manufacturing are growing, there is still a market for diversifying exports to less industrial countries that desperately need the building blocks for their economies. It should be mentioned that Spain is the only European country that has a boarder that physically touches the African continent (Ceuta and Melilla). Spain has an advantage should it choose to invest in the market of exporting renewable energy.
Increasing exports of renewable energy to countries that lack facilities to produce sufficient electricity can lower the unemployment rate both in Spain and the destined country because it opens doors to other industries. Fabricating solar panels and wind turbines for export and developing the logistics for new agricultural industries (energy efficient greenhouses and water treatment plants) are necessary for elevating the standard of living.
The most industrial countries in the world have been investing in clean energy projects to reduce global warming and climate change, but started they too late, and are not working fast enough. As the price of petroleum based products fluctuate dramatically because of oil embargoes, high tariffs, reductions in production due to sabotage, oil spills, wars, and scandals involving stolen petroleum, now more than ever is the time to abandon fossil fuels, and embrace clean energy to meet our energy needs.
The least industrial countries of the world also want to increase their economic output in order to lift their citizens out of poverty. The problem is that there is a direct correlation between rich countries with large populations and their excessive demand for petroleum and natural gas. This sends a bad message to the countries that have the largest reserves of petroleum.
Inversely, the countries that export the largest quantities of the world’s petroleum, like those that pertain to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), are known for their low levels of human rights, high levels of poverty, and lack of economic diversity, which puts the environment and their socioeconomic structure at risk. It should also be mentioned that with the exception of hydroelectric dams, no country included in OPEC currently has a clean energy program. Perhaps they are going to wait until the oil wells run dry before investing in alternative forms of energy.
Popular belief states that if a country or region wants to lift itself out of poverty, it must produce and export more commodities, but it is not that easy. The fact is that less developed countries lack the infrastructure necessary to produce enough electricity, which impedes further industrialization: without sufficient electricity; there is no industry.
Nigeria is an example of a country that depends heavily on the export of petroleum for its GDP. It also suffers from an energy crisis. To put the country profile in perspective, Nigeria has a population of about 170,000,000 people, but produces less electricity than Ireland, which has about 4,800,000 people.
Nor money, nor time should be an obstacle for not having already installed some form of clean energy in Nigeria or any other country. The once world’s largest wind farm in the year 2009 is located in Roscoe, Texas. Roscoe Wind Farm, with a price tag of about $ 1.000 million, has 634 wind turbines that stretch beyond 400km2 of land. All of this took about two years to construct and gives electricity to about 250,000 homes.
For Nigeria and other countries in the African continent to diversify their economies for inter-continental trade, they need to resolve their energy crisis. To start, Nigeria would have to import wind turbines and solar panels. This year, Nigeria has opened its doors to investors, professionals and companies for the Nigeria Alternative Energy Expo. With luck, we will see not only companies interested in selling modes of alternative energy, but also those involved in ways of developing a domestic industry for African clean energy.
With respect to wind turbines, the United States, Germany, Denmark, Spain and India are home to companies that fabricate and install wind turbines in their home countries as well as in foreign countries. Due to high unemployment in Spain especially, they should be at the forefront of investments in the export of wind turbines and solar panels to open markets in Africa; they should do it before other countries in the European Union especially Germany since they have already recovered from the economic recession. Spain produces about 20% of all of its energy from renewable sources.
The current administration of Spain and other highly industrialized Western nations have recently reduced their investments in clean energy. They have taken two steps back in their attempts to reduce human dependence on fossil fuels and produce new employment opportunities in a necessary and burgeoning industry. If Spain would intend on doing more business with companies and government in the north and west of Africa by exporting wind turbines and solar panels, both partners would grow economically. Perhaps with new-found economic industries and resources less Africans would not have to risk their lives traveling by raft or crossing the Sahara to get to the barb-wired fences of Ceuta or Melilla. Unemployment is exacerbating xenophobia and racism in Europe and North America with far-right political parties blaming immigrants for ills in society.
The production of clean energy in Africa would have a two-pronged effect. First, in addition to being able to produce alternative energy locally, more industries will be possible thus, empowering the local workforce. After proper investment clean energy should be fabricated locally as many of the raw materials to make wind turbines and solar panels are mined locally. New urban centers should spring up, which can alleviate the congestion of the squalid slums of mega-cities like Lagos or Luanda.
Second, African nations can modernize their social and economic life without dependence on fossil fuel industrialization of the 20th Century, while maintaining its status as the inhabited continent that contributes the least to global warming.
There are plenty of social and political battles to confront; people of the world have to realize that we are all suffering the consequences of global warming and the rise in ocean sea levels from the contamination of fossil fuels regardless of where we live. We cannot separate social and economic problems from ecology.
Now more than ever is the time to take advantage of such an old technology like harvesting the kinetic energy from the wind, and such a new technology like photovoltaic solar cells to resolve the problems of the 21st Century.
By Opton A. Martin