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Author:Nnedi Okorafor

And she did. Zagora presented the Sahara Solaris with panache and vigor. “Follow me,” she then said. The group of officials followed the girl outside, and there she gave a most astonishing demonstration of what she had invented. There was silence. Then there was murmuring. Then there was applause. The CEO of the Oracle Complex was speechless. She’d heard plenty from her advisors and assistant, and general rumor and hearsay, but nothing was like seeing it in action. How could this “beggar girl” who came from the desert caves invent something so ingenious? Such a simple, precise, useful device. The CEO knew she had to have this invention before this girl took and sold it elsewhere.

But Zagora wasn’t done yet. “The metaphor of the mirrors has not been lost on me,” she said. She’d practiced this speech many times at home. Always in Arabic, not Berber. She needed to be understood by everyone in the room. “You see the Oracle solar farm and think, ‘This is our future.’ It is a reflection of what we deserve, what we can be. It looks like a Star Wars kind of thing where all is clean and beautiful. It is. But there is also an ugly reality we, the people who live here, know well.”

Zagora didn’t say it in so many words, but she hinted at the fact that the land used for the solar plant belonged to people and that the government had applied capitalist definitions to that land in order to justify seizing it without the full permission of, and without compensating, those people. She said that those who approved the Oracle project decided that land was only valuable if it was “useful” and not valuable if it was not useful. If the land was desert, even if it was ancestral land that belonged to people, it was useless. This “useless” land was therefore subject to being put to “use,” i.e., generating clean renewable energy for Morocco and beyond.

Zagora paused dramatically and then said, “I have a list of demands.” Now, these demands were the idea of Zagora’s team, especially the lawyer (who helped her patent the Sahara Solaris).

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The following demands were included as part of that list:

That five local representatives join the advisors for Oracle Solar Farms and that they have voting power equal to the other advisors

     That the Oracle I Section of the plant be transitioned to a dry cooling system, instead of a wet cooling system

     That five hundred permanent jobs be created and given only to Ouarzazate locals to manually clean the mirrors using no water

     That the water needs of farmers be met before those of Oracle Solar Farms

     That these same demands be met for every future Oracle plant in Africa (this part her mother told her to add)

When she finished speaking, she sat down and she and her team waited. The CEO walked out of the room with her advisors. They made video-calls to investors. They all talked, debated, palavered, discussed, argued and eventually a decision was made. When they came back into the room, everyone slowly took their seats. Zagora and her team could barely breathe.

When the CEO spoke, what she said was shocking. Zagora sat there for several moments wondering if she had heard correctly. She had. The CEO was a smart woman and she saw the greatness of the Sahara Solaris immediately and that Zagora had protected her invention well. And that was why she had just approved every single one of Zagora’s requests, deeming them reasonable and affordable once the Sahara Solaris was replicated on a large scale and put to use at all the plants. “Everything is about to change,” Zagora whispered.

The rest is history, more or less. Over the years, as hoped, the success of Oracle led to more Oracles. The company created a new mega-project that expanded Oracle solar plants from Ouarzazate to Casablanca to Marrakesh to then to the countries of Algeria and Egypt. That mega-project was called, yes indeed, the Sunflower Initiative.

Automated solar-powered trucks loaded with equipment drove across these lands creating solar farms of five-mile radiuses. Across the desert, these trucks drove, stopped and dropped self-powered and programmed wi-fi enabled solar panels like large seeds. Thousands of them. These panels were high-powered mirrors that used patented Solargen technology and thus calibrated themselves. Upon command, they each awakened, dug in and positioned themselves as needed. And each farm would get its own Sahara Solaris. Soon each panel was concentrating light to its respective tower, and this energy was gathered, harvested and sent via Sahara Solaris to receiving turbines all over Morocco, Egypt and Algeria.

It was Zagora’s mother (now an advisor at Ouarzazate Oracle) who encouraged Zagora to push for expansion into Mali. “The solar plants are being built in Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, predominantly Arab nations,” she said. “What about Black Africa? Have those Sunflower Initiative trucks build a plant near Timbuktu? The city would finally thrive again!”

Zagora’s father agreed, “If this is an African endeavor, it should be an African endeavor.” And this was exactly what Zagora said at the next big Oracle meeting. On that day, the other board members dismissed her claims as unimportant. But the third time she brought this idea to the board, they listened. Zagora was the creator of the Sahara Solaris and she had earned her place at that table, she’d created that table. Plus, researchers had recently informed three of the board members that it made sense financially to expand into Mali and Niger and capitalize off of that location.

Zagora’s mother helped decide the precise location for Timbuktu Oracle, negotiating with local desert tribes, tribunals, and the Mali government. The location just outside of the city of Timbuktu turned out to be a prime one because the land was flat and the sunshine was constant. Once Oracle brought renewable and free energy to the ancient city of books, sand, and mud brick, it came back to life in a way it had not for centuries. On top of this, the money that came in from exporting the energy to nearby nations was incredible.

At the same time, the Sahara landgrab (where wealthy African countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, and Egypt began buying up desert lands to build Oracle Plants that used Sahara Solarises) happened. Even the not so wealthy nations, like Mali, Chad, Somalia, and Sudan joined in the buying, albeit on a smaller scale. After African nations had their turn, China, the United States, the UK and other eager nations made deals.

Within that first decade, the African nations of the Sahara were fifty percent solar powered, the strength of the energy they produced second only to what is currently gathered from the Oracle turbines in Nigeria’s Red Eye. Nevertheless, Zagora’s Sahara Solaris did something that no one could have imagined. Not only did the Sunflower Initiative bring clear renewal energy to the region, but all the Oracles began to export energy to the rest of Africa and weaker payloads of it to Spain and Italy. The shimmering ghosts from energy payloads are a common sight to those who live in their paths.

The change can be seen from satellite; the continent of Africa more lit up than ever. And regardless, the always-consistent sun roils and broils 93 million miles away, offering its gifts and curses, depending on where we are, what we want and what we do with it.

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And this is The Africanfuturist. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. Aluta continua.

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