Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from an electricity deficit with over 645 million Africans without access to electricity. By 2013, it was reported that only 32% of Sub-Saharan Africa had access to the power supply which slightly went up from the 30% reported in 2009. In Cameroon for instance, the World Bank estimates noted that more than 62% of Cameroonians have no access to electricity.
According to the 2015 McKinsey Global Institute’s report titled Brighter Africa: The growth potential of the sub-Saharan electricity sector, most countries in the continent have an average grid access rate of about 20% with barely seven countries, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Namibia, Senegal and, South Africa has an electricity access rate of more than 50%. However, South and North African countries benefit from higher rates of about 85% and 95%, respectively, while East and Central Africa are lagging with less than 25% access rate. Chad and Sierra Leone have been cited to have one of the lowest rates of less than 5% which is very worrying.
As a result of energy deficit, most households on the continent resorted to the use of other available options such as biomass, petrol, natural gas, and other fossil fuels, which have been noted to pose a significant danger to the people and the environment. The World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Disease statistics reported that over 600,000 Africans die yearly as a result of inhaling toxic fumes from firewood while cooking.
With the extremely low electricity supply, consumption rates have also remained very low and are said to be far below the rate of other emerging markets. Excluding South Africa, Sub Sahara Africa’s average electricity consumption rate was estimated at 150 kilowatt-hours per capita. Despite the currently very low rate of consumption, forecasts indicate that the electricity demand in the region will sharply increase. However, projections state that the level of electrification could rise to reach 70 to 80 percent by 2040. This could be possible with the ongoing energy projects in the continent, such as the Memve’ele hydroelectric dam in the South of Cameroon. The dam, which is expected to go operational by December 2020 is one of the biggest in Cameroon and has a capacity of 211MW of electricity. Equally, the 32 MW New Assiut Barrage Project inaugurated 2018 in Egypt provided electricity access to about 130,000 families. Zimbabwe added 150 MW of installed capacity to the grid through the Kariba South Bank expansion project commissioned in 2018 though the country still faces acute power shortages.
Energy for Economic transition in Africa
According to the 2015 McKinsey Global Institute’s, sub-Saharan Africa’s energy sector has a transformative potential with huge investment opportunities. Due to the overriding benefits that come with affordable energy, The African Union together with the African Development Bank joint Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) regarded hydropower development as a priority in the continent. Furthermore, available clean energy remains one of the major pillars of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals because of energy due to its importance to economic development. Reports have indicated that countries with low levels of electrification are prone to have low GDP per capital.
A World Bank Enterprise survey revealed that 13.3% of enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa mentioned the absence of reliable electricity as the biggest challenge to their business. This surveyed equally found out that about 48% of firms have generators as a substitute while 4% of losses in annual sales were due to power failures. For instance, reports have it that more than 57% of businesses in Kenya own generators with the figures in Tanzania reaching 42% and 41% for Ethiopia.
The future of Africa’s untapped energy sector
The irony about Africa’s energy sector is that despite the chronic power supply deficit, which is plaguing the continent, there is still a vast energy potential that remains under exploited. With barely 11% of utilized energy, Africa has noted to have the highest percentage of untapped hydroelectric potential as compared to the rest of the world. Recent reports in 2018 revealed that about 1 GW of hydropower was installed across the continent, making the total installed capacity to exceed 36 GW.
According to research carried out by McKinsey, it was discovered that Africa’s capacity to generate energy is up to 1.2 terawatts without solar and could go above 10 terawatts with solar. This indicated that Africa has a huge energy potential which remains highly underexploited. Forecasts indicate that Africa has a potential of about 400 gigawatts of gas-generated power and countries like Mozambique, Nigeria, and Tanzania are expected to produce about 60% of the overall capacity; which accounts for 350 gigawatts of hydro, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is also expected to represent 50% which accounts for about 300 gigawatts of coal capacity, while Botswana, Mozambique, and South Africa could provide 95% with 109 gigawatts of wind capacity. Several countries, including Cape Verde, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Morocco, and South Africa launched programs aimed at using solar, wind and geothermal energy which resulted in over 10 GW of capacity contracted.
In June 2018, the Democratic Republic of Congo inaugurated the 150 MW Zongo II hydropower project, which increased by 100 MW the installed energy capacity in the country from 50 MW in 2017. Also, the capacity of the Mwadingusha hydropower plant was increased from 22 MW to 32 MW and was expected to move up to 71 MW in 2019 after the completion of the last 3 turbines.
Gas and solar have so far been identified as elements that could positively contribute to the energy sector on the continent. It has been reported that gas could make up for more than 40% of the electricity generated from 2020 while solar is expected to pick up by 2030 and could make up 8% of the generation mix by 2040 and close to 30% of the capacity between 2030 and 2040.
With the construction of the Grand Inga in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa is looking forward to welcoming one of the largest energy infrastructures in the content which according to many sources could change the electricity market in sub-Saharan Africa. The 40-gigawatt hydroelectric project is envisaged to provide more than 200 terawatt-hours of electricity higher than the region’s total demand by 2040 by 13%. Designed to have an average output of 39,000 MW annually, the energy generated is expected to flow to Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria and will replace about 53 terawatt-hours of gas energy in countries like Angola, Ghana, and Nigeria as well as 26 terawatt-hours of coal energy in Zambia and Zimbabwe. In Angola, the government commissioned two more turbines in 2018 as part of the Lauca project and the Caculo Cabaça was scheduled to be commissioned by 2019. These two projects are expected to generate one-third of the target 9.9 GW of installed generation by 2025.
With the construction of The Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Ethiopia, for instance, has set a target to provide energy access to all citizens by 2025 while Egypt is gearing towards becoming a regional electricity hub for Arab and Africa after signing for the 2,400 MW Ataqa project which is considered the first pumped-storage hydropower plant in the country.
African leaders enjoined to promote policies to promote energy development
With the enormous energy potential in the continent, countries at national levels are making efforts to tap these potentials and make available power supply of the population, this is equally followed by other global efforts put in place to help curb the challenges and promote clean energy throughout the continent. According to a report by the Association for Free Research and International Corporation, AFRIC, published after two days Foresight sessions held in Berlin on Africa’s political and economic emergence, governments have a vital role to play in the development of the energy sector in Africa. The report recommended the need by the government to focus on developing energy projection tools which will help in providing high-level projections needed by Sub Saharan African’s power sectors. Furthermore, it highlighted the need for leaders to de-politicize the energy sector and develop comprehensive and feasible energy strategies that work in each country.
Apart from government efforts, international bodies have also taken on firm commitments to boost the energy sector in Africa. The African Development Bank Group, for instance, set a target to achieve universal access to electricity by 2025. It is working towards the provision of 100% access in urban areas, 95% access in rural areas, with reduced interruptions in the energy supply for those connected to a grid. According to the Bank Group’s Strategy for The New Deal on Energy for Africa 2016 – 2025, the bank plans to work closely with governments, the private sector, as well as other bilateral and multilateral energy sectors to develop a Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa.
All in all, the ability to scale up Africa’s energy production rests forward thinking Africans and their leaders. There is a need for the government to provide well-structured regulations and take deliberate actions to provide a reliable power supply in their respective countries. Renewable energy has been tropical. Africa needs to position self to harness this opportunity by creating an enabling environment that incentives investment in this sector. Education and awareness become strategic and should take center stage to ensure that Africa takes advantage and feed off the renewable energy value chain.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
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