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Makhtar Diop

Powering up Africa’s Renewable Energy Revolution

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As African Presidents, Prime Ministers, and business leaders arrive in Washington to attend the first US-Africa Summit, one topic that will be paramount in their discussions with President Obama and his Cabinet is: how governments and families can access affordable electricity across the African continent.

Consider the facts: one in three Africans, that’s 600 million people, has no access to electricity. Neither do some 10 million small and medium-sized enterprises. Those homes and businesses fortunate enough to have power pay three times as much as those in the United States and Europe; furthermore, they routinely endure power outages that cost their countries from one to four percent in lost GDP every year.

Akosombo Dam in Ghana, June 18, 2006. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst)Despite the fact that Africa is blessed with some of the world’s largest hydropower and geothermal resources (10-15 GW of geothermal potential in the Rift Valley alone), bountiful solar and wind resources, as well as significant natural gas reserves, total power generation capacity in Africa is about 80,000 megawatts (MW) (including South Africa), roughly the same as that of Spain or South Korea.

As Africa enters its 20th consecutive year of economic expansion, with the World Bank forecasting that Africa’s GDP growth will remain steady at 4.7 percent in 2014, and strengthening to 5.1 percent in each of 2015 and 2016, the continent needs more electric power. Specifically, Africa needs to add 7,000 MW of generation capacity each year to meet the projected growth in demand, yet it has achieved only 1,000 MW of additional power generation annually.

Over the last week I visited Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, two of Africa’s so-called ‘fountain states.’  The resources in these two countries – along with Guinea, Ethiopia, and Uganda – can generate enough hydroelectricity to satisfy the growing demand in Africa. I saw the range of applications for which this power is needed, and I saw clear solutions.

In Eastern Cameroon I visited the construction site for the Lom Pangar hydropower project. Once construction is complete and the reservoir is filled in the next couple of years, this new dam on the Sanaga River will improve the reliability of power supply and lower the cost for up to five million Cameroonians. The Lom Pangar project will also pave the way for developing the full 6,000 MW of hydropower potential of the Sanaga River by regulating the flow of the river.      
 
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, last week, I visited the Inga hydropower site on the mighty Congo River. DRC’s overall hydropower potential is estimated at 100,000 MW, the third largest in the world behind China and Russia, yet only 2.5% of this key resource has been developed. With 40,000 MW of generation potential, Inga is the world’s largest hydropower site. Its proper development can make Inga the African continent’s most cost-effective, renewable source of energy with an estimated generation cost of US$ 0.03 per kilowatt hour with little or no carbon footprint--a significant added virtue.

Securing peace with development, saying goodbye to a great leader

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As we reflect on the promise of the New Year in Africa, the irrefutable link between peace and development has never been clearer after my recent travels.

Earlier this month, I joined leaders from 53 African nations, the United Nations, and the African and European Unions at the Elysee Summit for Peace and Security  in Africa to talk candidly about how our countries can work together to maintain and enhance peace.

We talked about what this would mean in practice. For example, we must curb drug trafficking on the continent, increase financing for African peacekeeping operations, fight terrorism, manage borders more securely, include women fully in the political and economic decision-making process, and condemn the intolerable persistence of sexual violence when conflicts do occur. This last measure was strongly endorsed by the First Ladies of the Summit who also met to discuss issues of gender, development, and women’s rights.

The African leaders recognize that for many of these measures to work, economic development must be twinned with public and private investment in business, technology, agriculture, climate-smart policies, and in young people who are fast becoming Africa’s driving force and future. Africa is now the world’s youngest continent and how well we meet the skills needs of our young people will greatly determine the continent’s future.

Providing electricity in Uganda

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World Bank Africa VP at the Bujagali hydropower plant in Uganda


KAMPALA, Uganda--World Bank Africa Region Vice President Makhtar Diop, in Uganda for development talks with President Museveni, his Cabinet, and other development partners, visits the site of the World Bank Group-financed Bujagali Hydropower plant in Uganda, which at 240 MW now generates the bulk of the country's electricity needs.

The importance of linking development to peace and security

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During the last week, we traveled in the Sahel region with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, and the European Union. The result was exciting. Please watch my video blog to learn more.
VP Diop: Sahel trip shows importance of development linked to peace, security

A New Deal for Somalia

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Getting Somalia right has huge regional and global implications and attracted $2.4 billion in support at a recent development partners meeting in Brussels. 

Supporting fragile and conflict-affected countries to get back on a stable, hopeful development path is a key priority for me as Vice President for the World Bank’s Africa region. It is on my mind especially at the moment after being in Brussels several days ago to participate in the EU-hosted New Deal Conference on Somalia, and then visiting Bamako to pledge our support to Mali’s newly formed Government. As stated by the international community and many observers, the recent election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will open a new era of peace and reconstruction for Mali and we will be an active partner in this immense task.

The Brussels conference marks the anniversary of last year’s political transition and culminated in the endorsement of a “Compact” against which the international community pledged $2.4 billion through 2016. The conference, hosted by the EU and the Government of Somalia led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, not only helped consolidate international political support for Somalia but also generated considerable momentum for the country’s development plans and a path to international debt relief.

Working to Meet Africa’s Skyrocketing Demand for Higher Education

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Makhtar Diop delivers plenary remarks at the Association of African Universities Conference, Libreville, Gabon

The Association of African Universities—AAU for short—held its 13th general conference last week in Libreville, Gabon. Representing the World Bank at this conference, I had a great opportunity to engage with this vibrant university community. A community which is expanding fast as demand for higher education is skyrocketing thanks to Africa’s “youth bulge”, that is, as the share of young people in the population is increasing in many countries. Private universities are mushrooming everywhere.

Flooding and a Changing Climate in Mozambique

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Here in Mozambique, the rainy season has brought disaster for as many as 110,000 people living in the Limpopo Valley, as surging water over recent days has flooded their crops, capsized their towns and villages, and forced their evacuation to higher ground. Forty people are believed to have died in the floods so far. It’s expected that as many as 150,000 people may ultimately be affected.

A UN reconnaissance plane that flew over the Valley on Monday took photos of mile after square mile of crops and farm land under brown muddy water, a result of the Limpopo River and others nearby bursting their banks.  It's at times like this that you really appreciate the powerful humanitarian role of the UN.

Mozambican President Armando Guebuza quickly went to the scene to see for himself how the flooding had turned communities upside down.

Talking with people from the town of Chokwé and surrounding areas at an emergency shelter, the President said, "we are with you, we weep with you, because we know that you have lost many of your goods including your houses, your goats, your cattle and much that is of great value."

Let’s Turn the Lights on Across Africa

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I’m in Tokyo this week for the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings and on Friday I will open the Bank’s global conference to look more closely at the serious energy challenge facing Africa.

Consider this stunning fact―only 1 in 3 Africans has access to electricity on the continent.

And that is why too little electricity is one of the biggest challenges I see standing in the way of Africa achieving steadily higher growth rates, better education for its children and teenagers, good quality health services that work, farms and agribusinesses that can grow enough cheap nutritious food for Africans to eat, just to name some of the transformational priorities which can happen when we turn the lights on across Africa.

I confess I am passionate about lighting up homes, schools, businesses, clinics, libraries, and parliaments across the continent. As a child growing up in Senegal, I knew first-hand about power shortages. More power for Africans will allow them to transform their living standards and turn the continent’s growth into tangible benefits for all.

Energy security is a key priority for my work as World Bank Vice President for Africa, and my team is moving ahead relentlessly to put power infrastructure in place to plug regional communities into cross-border power pools, more irrigated land to grow food and create jobs, galvanize more trade and commerce within the region, and to unlock all the other development potential that electrical power makes possible.