In Sub-Saharan Africa, less than one fourth of the population has access to electricity. Financial and technical aid is not sufficient to develop power generation and supply : local skills and expertise are also a prerequisite.
Based on this statement, EDF decided in 2008 to partner with the NGO GVEP International (Global Village Electrification Partnership) to jointly contribute to skills development in the electricity sector on the African continent. The partners began by mapping out the skills needs expressed in Western Africa and identifying local partners prepared to upgrade the training curricula. A survey was conducted, covering 13 countries and 250 contact points. The survey findings were later presented at a seminar organised in 2009 by the "Institut d'Ingénierie de l'Eau et de l'Environnement" (2iE) in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), with support from EDF and in the presence of the main actors involved (power companies, rural electrification agencies, training institutions, NGOs).
The main challenge to start implementing the operational development of the project is to get the financial support required for the equipment of the schools/training centers, the precise identification and priorization of the needs and the training of the trainers.
Another challenge: Such transfer of skills and expertise will of course require proper coordination and supervision for optimum efficiency.
The first cooperation links have been taking shape since then, in particular with two projects: one designed to train electricity dispatchers in Western Africa, and another to help the 2iE institute upgrade and better target its curriculum in energy engineering. In addition, electrical equipment manufacturers have also expressed an interest in getting involved in practical training programmes.
A project proposal has been submitted to the EU (Energy Facility 2010) to obtain a financial support ; this project relies on 2 pilot countries (Mali and Burkina Faso) which have been chosen to demonstrate the feasibility of the initiative.