Rwanda has made a major stride in moving towards clean, renewable energy with the completion last year of a major solar plant, creating jobs and setting the country on the path to providing half its population with electricity by 2017, The Guardian reported.

Completed within a year, the project is the first utility-scale solar energy initiative in East Africa, a partnership of Gigawatt Global, Norfund and Scatec Solar.

Electricity consumption per capita in sub-Saharan Africa is one-sixth of the world’s average. Photo: Riddypix / Alamy/Alamy

“The success of the solar plant is crucial to Rwanda’s plan to provide electricity to 70 percent of its 11.8 million citizens by June 2018,” CS Monitor reported.

The $23.7m plant, designed so that, from a bird’s-eye view, it resembles the shape of the African continent, produces 8.5 megawatt (MW), according to The Guardian.

Construction of the plant, built on a 17-hectare site has reportedly “created 350 local jobs and increased Rwanda’s generation capacity by 6%, powering more than 15,000 homes”.

According to the World Bank, Africa has an enduring energy problem and “power is inaccessible, unaffordable, and unreliable for most people.This traps people in poverty”.

“Solutions to this problem include: boosting cross-border power trade, improving existing utility companies, improving access to electricity on a large scale, while helping countries chart low-carbon growth paths,” the World Bank says.

To stimulate economic growth, tackle poverty and boost job creation, Rwanda’s succesful investments in solar energy have been applauded by many as the way forward.