African scientists visit German research centres with a focus on renewable energy

Under the tag line “Building bridges – a tour of Germany’s leading research centres”, German and African researchers exchanged ideas about renewable energy in late March. Within the scope of this topic, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has initiated partnerships between numerous German and African scientists as well as the heads of research institutions from Ghana, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Niger, Gambia, and Namibia in order to analyse the potential of renewable energy and its prospects of implementation.

“We are here to build bridges between countries, institutions, and people,” explained Dr. Christoph Rövekamp from BMBF at the launch of the tour across Germany, which aims to encourage exchanges between the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL), the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL), and German scientists. Against the backdrop of population explosion and climate change, the aim of the project is to support Africa in making food production sustainable and secure. Billions of people have no – or only unsafe – access to advanced and climate-friendly energy supplies, even in regions where there is a lot of wind and sun, such as the Global South. Energy poverty, i.e. a lack of access to safe and efficient energy carriers, has many direct and indirect consequences on people’s well-being. It is therefore imperative that access to renewable energy be improved.

The scientists began their tour by visiting the geothermal power plant MoNiKa and the bioliq® pilot plant at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The pilot plant produces synthetic fuels and basic chemical products from dry residual biomass, such as straw or waste wood. The power plant has a modular design, is mobile, and offers unique opportunities for investigating geothermal electricity generation and/or low-temperature electricity generation

At Forschungszentrum Jülich, the delegates learnt about Jülich research into agrosphere, photovoltaics, and plant sciences, and were also given a tour of the Jülich Supercomputing Centre. In addition, they made the trip to the German Biomass Research Centre (DBFZ) in Leipzig. The researchers also visited a wind turbine and Germany’s largest solar park in Berlin-Neuhardenberg.

The delegates shared in-depth exchanges with German scientists and professionals.Summarizing his impressions of sustainable energy production in Germany, Professor Rabani Adamou, vice chancellor in charge of research and foreign affairs at Abdou Moumouni University (UAM) in Niger, said: “We have seen the way to go and how to go. Concrete and efficient actions have to be taken now. Africa has the resources, it’s time to build the technical and human potentials. We have a strong will to leapfrog in the renewable energy sector.” Speaking about the tour through Germany, he added: “I was highly impressed by this educative tour, which I’m sure has brought an impressive added value to each participant. After this event, I got a clear and global idea of the energy situation and related research, not only in Germany but also in Africa. The challenge seems very high, but we have the responsibility and the obligation as Africans to succeed!”