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Powering up Africa’s Renewable Energy Revolution

Makhtar Diop's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية

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.

Setting the Example for Cooperative Management of Transboundary Water Resources in West Africa

Kabine Komara's picture

Stretching for more than 1,800 kilometers across Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Mauritania, the Senegal River is the third longest river in Africa. In a region such as the Sahel, which is plagued by drought, poverty, and underdevelopment, access to a water resource such as the Senegal River is critical to local populations who rely on it for energy production, land irrigation, and potable water.
 

The Angola paradox: Development aid in a "wealthy" country

Thomas Dickinson's picture
Also available in: Français



Preparing a recent project mission to Angola, I came across the country’s latest accomplishment: a gigantic new refinery to consolidate its national oil industry. Looking at that massive structure, I was hit with a sudden thought: if they can pull off such an enormous and complex feat of engineering, what do they need me for?

Climate Tech in Ethiopia? Yes!

Michael Ehst's picture
Also available in: Français



This week marks the launch of the new, World-Bank supported Ethiopia Climate Innovation Center (CIC). The center joins a global network of CICs and is designed to support local Ethiopian businesses that are responding to the challenges of climate change by providing mentorship, financing, access to markets, and policy support.

Providing electricity in Uganda

Makhtar Diop's picture
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.

Keeping the Lights on in Africa, Fulfilling a Pledge

Makhtar Diop's picture
Also available in: Français
Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Power Project: Bringing More Electricity to Africa's Great Lakes Region

In May this year, I joined World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on their historic visit to Africa’s Great Lakes region.  
 
As we travelled this war-weary region, at every stop, whether in towns or the countryside, we saw families involved in an epic effort to keep the peace, find jobs, feed and educate their children, and make their lives more prosperous.   

Fragile states, an opportunity to deliver lasting security and development

Makhtar Diop's picture
Also available in: Français

Freetown, Sierra Leone
Next week, I will be joining World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on an historic joint visit to Africa's Great Lakes Region. The aim of the trip is to brainstorm with African leaders solutions to helping the people of the Great Lakes prosper.

This visit is important for two reasons - it highlights a new era of global institutions working together to promote stability, and it signals to the citizens of fragile and conflict affected nations our commitment: we will not leave you behind.

Many countries in today’s world have struggled, or are struggling, through war or political conflict to rebuild themselves and lift their people out of poverty. They are called fragile states, nations with poor health and education, little or no electricity, disorganized or weakened institutions, and in many cases no functioning governments. In Africa, 18 of the 48 countries in the sub Region are considered fragile, six of them so much so that UN, NATO or African Union forces are on the ground helping to keep peace.

Africa Clean Cooking Energy Solutions

Srilata Kammila's picture

Well before sunrise in the small village of Msangani, Tanzania, Tunu ali Matekenya begins work at five, baking fresh bread.  Formerly an agricultural laborer, Tunu’s life has improved thanks to entrepreneurship training she received in using advanced cookstoves.

“The oven I am using is very efficient, it is easy to use and consumes less charcoal, which reduces the cost of baking...all this means more profit” Tunu exclaims proudly.

In many areas of the developing world, women and children spend hours foraging for wood and other fuel sources then prepare meals around open fires or primitive cookstoves in poorly ventilated homes. Not only does this present an obvious fire hazard, but it also means they are inhaling toxic fumes from incomplete combustion of toxins that are responsible for nearly 500,000 premature and preventable deaths annually in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The problem is particularly acute because 82 percent of the population depends on charcoal, dung, fuel wood, and forms of biomass for cooking purposes. 

The Case for Sharing Africa’s New Minerals Wealth With All Africans

Makhtar Diop's picture

In country after country in Sub-Saharan Africa, new discoveries of oil, natural gas and mineral deposits have been making headlines every other week it seems. When Ghana’s Jubilee oil field hits peak production in 2013, it will produce 120,000 barrels a day. Uganda’s Lake Albert Rift Basin fields could potentially produce even greater quantities. Billions of dollars a year could flow into Mozambique and Tanzania thanks to natural gas findings. And in Sierra Leone, mining iron ore in Tonkolili could boost GDP by a remarkable 25 percent in 2012.

My strong hope is that all the people living in these resource-rich African countries also get to share in this new oil and mineral wealth. So far, with one of few exceptions being Botswana, natural resources haven’t always improved the lives of people and their families. From what I see on my constant travels to the continent, economic growth in most resource-rich countries is not automatically translating into better health, education, and other key services for poor people.

Many resource-rich countries tend to gravitate towards the bottom of the global Human Development Index, which is a composite measure of life expectancy, education and income. 

One strikingly effective way to make sure that all people, especially the poorest, share in the new minerals prosperity is through safety nets and social protection programs. These are designed to protect vulnerable families and promote job opportunities among poor people who are able to work. This in turn makes communities stronger and more secure, while reducing painful inequalities between people.

Social protection programs are already central to poverty-fighting, higher growth national strategies across Africa, and have played a significant role reducing chronic poverty and helping families become more resilient in the face of setbacks such as unemployment, sudden illness, or natural disasters such as droughts or floods. These programs have also allowed families to invest in more livestock or grow more food, and increase their earnings. 

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