A Wealth of Possibilities in The Dark Continent, Africa

dark africaThis writing is a research outcome I was doing at office. It is quite old but worth to read, especially for energy expertise. Since the information is not confidential, I’d like to share it to the world.

Africa faces critical questions about its future aconomic development, particularly in relation to its energy supply and its population’s access to electricity. Africa population is projected to grow by 71% from 2009 to 2035, but there will be only a 38% increase in energy demand over the same period (source: International Energy Agency). In countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, large portions of population have no access to electricity. By knowing the situation of Africa where 92% of hydroppower potential is still underdevleoped, per capita generation in Africa 2009 amounted to only about 600 kWh, as compared with OECD average of 7,500 kWh.

Continental Africa has a complete mix of all the energy resources. As for traditional energy, it has an abundance of natural gas and oil in northern and western Africa, an abundance of coal in southern Africa, and an abundance of water resources in Central Africa. In renewable energy category, all continental Africa can be regarded as one giant solar panel, and wind is plentiful in the arid desert and coastal regions. When viewed from the sky at night, however, continental Africa is dark. This darkness is not an engineering outcome or challenge but due to an externality, which is poor leadership, both in Africa and many other world capitals.

How can Africa obtain access to affordable energy to power its economies? What are the most economic resources and best ways to develop them? The World Economic Forum’s Africa Competitiveness Report 2009 recommends that Africa do more to improve its energy generation and transmission systems by opening up opportunities for private investments through public-private partnerships in cogeneration projects, merging small projects to obtain economies of scale, and creating cooperative arrangements. According to WEF report, the opening of public monopolies should be accompanied by proper institutional and legal frameworks. Electrification projects must be accelerated in parallel with supply-side solutions. The enormous potential of renewable energy resources should be exploited and this strategy can position Africa as a net exporter of energy.

The darkness of some parts of Africa contrast with what has been happening in the southern region of the continent:

1. Angola
Angola has substantial hydropower potential that can provide a consistent basis for power generation to meet current and future needs.

2. Botswana
The country has huge coal reserves that are the resource base for the electricity generation that is meeting its current needs.

3. Lesotho
Lesotho has existing installed capacity based on hydropower potential.

4. Madagascar
Madagascar utilizes diesel generators and hydropower for the most part.

5. Malawi:
Hydropower schemes have been developed for Malawi, but they have critical limitations of a hydrological nature; coal reserves have been identified.

6. Mauritius:
The country’s existing installed capacity is based on hydropower and sugar cane bagasse power plants (70%/30%).

7. Mozambique:
The country mostly uses hydropower from Cahorra Bassa on the Zambezi River.

8. Namibia:
Namibia imports most of its electricity from South Africa and other countries. The use of Kudu gas for power generation has been considered as an option for the future.

9. South Africa:
The country has substantial coal resources; it accounts for more than 90% of Africa’s total coal consumption and 75% of its electricity generated with that fuel. Concerns on CO2 emissions are growing and the country has pledged to reduce them.

10. Swaziland:
Only 60 MW is generated internally, all of it from hydro, and this equates to only 15% of the total need. THe reamining energy is imported from Eskom in South Africa and EDM in Mozambique.

11. Tanzania:
Tanzania meets its demand with the 71% of local generation that is based on hyropower. Thermal and natural gas are also in use.

12. Zambia:
Most of the 2,500 MW installed capacity in Zambia is from internal generation based on hydropower plants.

13. Zimbabwe:
Zimbabwe imports 35% of its power from South Africa and Mozambique while generating the reamining 65% from thermal sources.

Two specific challenges for Africa in the future are: renewable energy opportunities and the need for human development in maintaining and sustaining engineering solutions. Africa can jump over the backlog in power infrastructure by exploring and exploiting its renewable energy resources. 17 coutries in Africa are among the top 35 nations in the world with the biggest total reserves of solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy. Most of Africa receives solar radiation of the order of 6-8 kWh/m2 per day. This is among the highest levels in the world, placing 31 African countries in the top 35 countries on the planet for this resource. Investments in human development are also a priority for releasing the human energy needed to maintain and sustain the power infrastructure.


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