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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.

World Bank hosts first annual African Youth Forum

Maleele Choongo's picture
Africa’s economic growth is climbing at a much quicker pace than many other regions in the world, averaging 4.5 percent annually since 1995. Endowed with rich natural resources and even more human capital, Africa is one of the most economically promising continents globally.
 
Another measure of growth is reflected in the continent’s demographic dividend, which accounts for 200 million people aged between 15 and 24. Africa has the youngest population in the world, with about 2 to 3 million of these young people entering the labor force every year. 
 

“We felt like human beings again:” Treating and supporting survivors of sexual violence

Miriam Schneidman's picture
Also available in: Français
Supporting Women Survivors of Violence in Africa's Great Lakes Region



We felt like human beings again” asserts a survivor of sexual violence at the Panzi Hospital in Eastern DRC.  Survivors arrive here with serious physical injuries and deep psychological scars.  Some are accompanied by children who are painful reminders of the rape and trauma they suffered. They face numerous hurdles to putting their lives back together—stigma, isolation, and hopelessness.  While many organizations provide support, only a few are able to offer the full range of services required—medical care, mental health support, legal aid and economic activities.

From Brazil to Burundi: uniting communities through soccerScoring for Peace

Scoring for Peace
Leveraging sport as a vehicle for peace and development is relatively new, having graduated slowly over the past 10 years from a ‘cottage industry’ on the periphery to now being firmly entrenched in the mainstream of development programming.The Post Conflict Reintegration Program within AFTC/TDRP has since 2005 reintegrated and reconciled into communities almost half a million ex-combatants and their families. 

“Think Jobs”: What I Learned as a Participant in the World Bank’s “Think Jobs” Debate Competition

Delia Banda's picture
Delia Banda is a student of Zambia’s Copperbelt University. She recently won “Best Debater” during a televised debate series on jobs and unemployment that was sponsored by the World Bank Zambia Country Office.

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.
 

Nollywood star Stella Damasus invites you to join a live discussion on gender based violence

Anne Dronnier's picture


A multi-disciplinary art exhibition on the topic of gender based violence (GBV) is opening today at the World Bank in Washington, DC. The exhibition is entitled “1 in 3,” since an estimated one in three women worldwide will be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. “1 in 3” includes art from around the world - photographs, paintings, drawings, sculpture; films and videos; posters from advertising campaigns against GBV, and performing art. 

Night life in #Africa: a fun twist to development

Maleele Choongo's picture
Apps and Clubs: Navigating (Night)life in Dakar
Agendakar is a web platform that connects users to local night life, restaurants, exhibitions, and other events in Dakar. Deme’s Agendakar is now the most popular event guide to Senegal's capital. Her staff of four young Africans collect event dates, program, code, and write articles about the city’s latest novelties. The app reduces costs associated with mobile web services by allowing users to download it for free and use it offline.

Africa Impact Evaluation Podcast: Community-Based Conditional Cash Transfers Make a Big Difference in Tanzania

David Evans's picture


Photo credit: Katrina Kosec.

Can a cash transfer program that relies heavily on communities to target beneficiaries, deliver payments, and monitor conditions, improve outcomes for the poor in the same way that more centrally-run conditional cash transfer programs (CCTs) have elsewhere?

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