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Over 600 million Africans lack electricity despite huge renewable energy potential

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | The African Union (AU) Commission on Thursday revealed that over 600 million people across the Africa lack access to electricity despite the continent’s abundant renewable energy potential.

“Currently, more than 600 million Africans lack access to electricity with many still relying on traditional biomass for cooking,” the AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Amani Abou-Zeid, told the a virtual Rift Geothermal Conference (ARGeo-C8), which brings together experts from the geothermal development community, former heads of state and members of geothermal development associations from around Africa, Europe and Asia, aiming to spur the development of nearly 20,000 MW of geothermal power from Africa.

“This is having huge impacts on our efforts towards poverty reduction and human development in the continent,” told the virtual meeting organized by the 55-member pan African bloc.

The AU commissioner highlighted that Africa has a huge potential in renewable energy, especially in geothermal which is a viable energy resource estimated at over 15,000 megawatts in East Rift System Countries, that the continent can leverage on to improve the energy-mix generation in East Africa.

Abou-Zeid also stressed that the development of geothermal energy “is one of the main focus areas for the AU Commission,” which she said is the main reason behind the establishment of the Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility (GRMF) back in 2012 by the continental bloc in collaboration with its partners.

She emphasized that the GRMF “has become since its launch in 2012 a reference in terms of risk mitigation and financial tool for supporting the geothermal energy development in Eastern Africa.”

The AU infrastructure and energy commissioner also stressed that the positive impacts that GRMF has made in terms of geothermal market development in East Africa.

She pointed out that the initiative had successfully launched 5 Application Rounds during which projects developers have been awarded grants totaling over 117 million U.S. dollars to 30 projects with a potential to generate 2,800 Megawatts of electricity.

According to the AU, the main objective of the ARGeo conference envisaged promoting and support the geothermal development in the East Africa region.

The high-level international conference, among others, brought together policymakers, technical experts as well as developers and financiers of international and regional delegates.

The conference also provided a platform to explore solutions on how to mitigate the risks associated with resource exploration, reduce lead times in developing geothermal projects, leverage investment to stimulate the growth of industry, and effectively develop, construct, and operate successful geothermal power plants.

During her remarks, thr AU infrastructure and energy commissioner called upon key stakeholders including implementing and grants beneficiary countries, technical partners and international financial institutions to joint efforts to meet both technical challenges and financial gaps to unlock the huge potential and untapped geothermal resources in East Africa.

The ARGeo conference is expected to come up with recommendations on various issues affecting the geothermal energy development in East Africa such as business models, regulatory frameworks to boost investments in sustainable energy, it was noted.

The Regional Geothermal Coordination Unit at the AU Commission in collaboration with UNEP-ARGeo will be responsible for following up on the recommendations and reaching out to various partners for its successful implementation, it was indicated.

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By Xinhua

 

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Technology

Google Internet project closes in Uganda.

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Uganda will be among the 10 African countries that will lose out as Google winds up its Internet Balloon Project. 

The closure follows an announcement in which Google said the project was “an unsustainable business model”.

In 2019, Loon LLC, a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, signed a Letter of Agreement in Kampala with officials from Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, in which high altitude solar powered Internet balloons with floating masts over Uganda’s airspace, would be established at an altitude of 500,000 feet.

The balloons would create an aerial wireless network to provide Internet and telecom network connectivity to rural and remote areas.

Dr Anna Prouse, the Loon LLC head of government relations, had said then that Google would partner with telecoms to tap into their technology to allow connectivity.

However, Alastair Westgarth, the team lead of the project, last week announced in a statement the project would be closed.

“We talk a lot about connecting the next billion users, but the reality is Loon has been chasing the hardest problem of all in connectivity – the last billion users: The communities in areas are too difficult or remote to reach, or the areas where delivering service with existing technologies is just too expensive for everyday people,” he said.

While Loon had found a number of willing partners along the way, he said, they had not found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business.

“Developing radical new technology is inherently risky. I am sad to share that Loon will be winding down,” he said.

Loon had had similar arrangements in Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, DR Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Mozambique and Kenya, but are expected to close as well.

The Loon project was expected to be a game changer in Uganda’s telecomm sector through enhancing connectivity in remote areas, and contributing to the development of the national backbone infrastructure project.

The demand for Internet among Ugandans has grown exponentially in the recent past with Covid-19 being a serious catalyst.

Internet status  

A UCC report published recently indicated telecom and Internet service providers registered an increase in demand for data in the third quarter of 2020 with more than 20 million subscriptions – nearly 50 per cent of the population being connected.

The growth was mainly attributed to the shifting work culture driven by Covid-19, which led many businesses to adopt remote working methods.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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Human Rights Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo is out on bail…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Kampala – Uganda Human Rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo has been granted bail pending trial in regard to accusations of money laundering.

Justice Jane Okuo of the Anti-corruption Court has on December, 30th, 2020 ordered for the release of Mr. Opiyo on bail but ordered him to deposit cash of Shs15m in the bank.

The court also ordered Mr. Opiyo to deposit his passport in court to restrict his movements out of the country and each of the four sureties were bonded at Shs100m, not cash.

Justice Okuo ruled that Mr. Opiyo has a legal right to bail based on the presumption of innocence.

His lawyers, David Mpanga, Robert Mackay, and Elison Karuhanga argued that Mr. Opiyo is a lawyer in courts of law, a human rights international award winner with substantial sureties.

They said that Mr. Opiyo knows his obligations to bail.

Mr. Opiyo appeared before the High Court judge by way of a video conference at Buganda Road, hardly a week after a lower court remanded him until January 11, next year.

Mr. Opiyo, the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda was arrested last week from a city restaurant and detained at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. He was charged with money laundering, a charge that can only be heard by the High Court judge.

Mr. Opiyo was abducted alongside two members of Witness Radio – Uganda legal team Esomu Simon Peter Obure and Anthony Odur. Others were Herbert Dakasi and Hamid Tenywa who were later granted a police bond on December, 24th, 2020.

The prosecution alleges that Mr. Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.

Opiyo is the lawyer representing two NGOs including the Uganda National NGO Forum and Uganda Women’s Network whose accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Intelligence Authority over alleged involvement in moving money to finance terrorism activities.

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Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo denied bail, remanded again…

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By witnessradio.org Team

Buganda Road court on Monday remanded human rights lawyer Mr. Nicholas Opiyo to Kitalya prison till January 11, 2021.
Opiyo was arrested last week on Tuesday and detained at Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. He was charged with money laundering.
Mr. Opiyo on Monday appeared before Buganda Road Chief Magistrates court through video conferencing where the case was read to him.

The Chief Magistrate, Mr. Moses Mabende however denied him bail arguing that he has no jurisdiction to hear his case.

The magistrate said the charges against Opiyo who is the executive director of Chapter Four Uganda, can only be heard by the High Court.

He sent him back to Kitalya prison till January 11, 2021, to come for mentioning of the case.

“The accused can apply for bail in the High Court on Wednesday because the case is before Justice Jane Kajuba at the anti-corruption high court,” the Magistrate said.

The other four suspects, who included lawyers Herbert Dakasi, Esomu Obure, Anthony Odur, and Human Rights officer, Hamid Tenywa were given police bonds last Thursday.

The prosecution alleges that Mr. Opiyo on October 8, 2020, at ABSA Bank Garden City Branch, in Kampala District acquired $340,000 (about Shs1.2 billion) through ABSA Bank account No.6004078045 in the names of Chapter Four Uganda, knowing at the time of receipt that the said funds were proceeds of crime.

Opiyo is the lawyer representing two NGOs including the Uganda National NGO Forum and the Uganda Women’s Network whose accounts were recently frozen by the Financial Intelligence Authority over alleged involvement in moving money to finance terrorism activities.

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