By Thandiwe Kubere

MASERU – The Metsi ke Bophelo, water and hydrogen in a digital future stakeholders assured employment to the youth of this country and to reap the benefits associated with the national “history changing” strategy as it saw green light during the conference and expo.

With all the scientific technology associated with the strategy involving a number of different projects including that of extracting hydrogen and oxygen from the water-which is abundant in Lesotho, to have a variety of uses for the two, the Prime Minister and different stakeholders promise young people with appropriate skills to participate and gain from this endeavor. Aiming to improve the nation’s economic state and have a private sector led economy. 

Most countries around the world are becoming key players in the burgeoning hydrogen economy which is estimated to be worth $300 Billion by year 2030 and Lesotho does not want to be left out. Mr.  Mashudu Ramano from ethical solutions holding deliberated that it is not right to see water every day and think it is ordinary, not noting the massive opportunities and wealth it comes with, “we do not think water is power, water is fuel.” He further demonstrated that there are many uses of hydrogen that will be extracted from the country’s water by showing how essential it would be to have a car in the future which uses hydrogen, “you will drive your car, when you get home, you connect it as a source to power your house. That is where we are going because with hydrogen; you can produce electricity sites without the long transmission lines because Lesotho is a mountainous region and it is a very costly process”, he said.

Mr. Ramano, therefore deliberated that exercising all these science and technology procedures is where the youth come in with their different talents and skills.  He urged that the education system and subjects taught should be reconsidered and structured in a way that is innovative and prepares them for the workforce. He continued to stress out that it is inappropriate that children grow up thinking they have limited abilities or can only do little in the world. “We need to start encouraging the youth of this country to think big so that they can grow rich. There is so much wealth that is untapped into including water which is very abundant in this country. We could see an immense change and growth in this country’s economy if kids can grow up believing they are creators and world changers, each with their unique strength”, he said. He made sure to point out that this hydrogen economy comes with immense potential as a clean and reliable energy source.

Most of the job opportunities are for skilled graduates and are expected to range from operations, maintenance, refining and beneficiation, transportation, construction, to industrial manufacturing. “There are many opportunities for youth in the water sector. Those include water engineering, water treatment, Infrastructure engineering, a variety of opportunities in manufacturing, information and data analytics to say the least. A sectoral alignment with industry-specific requirements will also facilitate a just labor transition, where potential job losses in the traditional coal mining industry, for example, are mitigated through the up-skilling, retraining and onboarding of workers in the green economy.

An ideal setting was provided for the generation of renewable energy to produce green hydrogen, which, he pointed out, could be derived from any water source through the process of electrolysis. The hydrogen could then be converted into green electricity to power vehicles and buildings, with the help of PGMs-catalyzed hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen’s environment-friendliness is emphasized by that fact that the only byproduct of its use is water which means it has potential to play a vital role in the reduction of pollution which results in climate change.

However, majority of these new jobs are expected to be categorized as skilled, requiring either university education or vocational training. Given the estimation that one third of graduates in Lesotho are unemployed, there is clearly a critical skills gap between industry demands and the higher learning institutions offerings.

The importance of aligning the country’s higher learning institutions system with real industry needs and opportunities to improve labor absorption in the future green economy cannot be overstated; specifically in offering the right qualifications and turning out enough graduates for every hydrogen fuel cell technology application and sector-specific skills requirement.