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.

In the past six months, we’ve seen the launch of the Lom Pangar Hydropower Project on Cameroon’s Sanaga River. The World Bank is a key partner to the project, which will increase electricity generation and improve the reliability of power supply for up to five million people and help lower the costs. This will mean less frequent power cuts especially during the dry season and more productive investments.

We’ve also helped fund the Regional Eastern Africa Power Integration Program, the first phase of which will connect Ethiopia’s electrical grid with Kenya, creating power-sharing between the two countries, reducing energy costs and promoting sustainable and renewable power generation. The project will be transformational for Kenya, a country with enormous potential to reach middle-income status in the next decade, but where severe power shortages are hampering growth. For both countries, it will mean more jobs.

Most recently, we approved the Niger Basin Water Resources Development and Sustainable Ecosystems Management Program. The project will not only generate more electricity, but increase food production, boost jobs, and create economic opportunities for families and communities in the nine countries that make up Africa’s Sahel region.

Together these projects stand to bring more power to millions of people, bettering the lives of mothers, school children, teachers, doctors, shopkeepers, and others–people who need electricity to thrive and do more for their families and communities. And we are delivering on these big regional projects at the express wish of our African Governors who have made their delivery a priority for the continent.

So back to Friday’s conference…we will have Finance Ministers from Africa and other regions taking part along with Japanese officials who will share their country’s lessons on keeping the lights on.

We will be streaming live on the Internet so please watch and participate. What I hope we’ll all come away with is a greater understanding of the seriousness of Africa’s energy shortages; how new public and private financing for power can make a commanding difference; and ultimately, step up the momentum and commitment toward funding more projects that generate more power for Africa.

Without electricity, Africa’s development future cannot prosper. The good news it that much is being done to change this, and that governments are focused on it. Our job at the World Bank is not done until all Africans can turn the lights on at home, at work, and nationwide.


Makhtar Diop

World Bank’s Vice President for Infrastructure

Join the Conversation

October 15, 2012

Je veux juste saisir cette opportunité pour apprécier votre intervention sur l'ajustement structurel en Afrique et plus particulièrement sur le cas du Sénégal. J'ai eu à participer dans sa mise en œuvre dans le volet dettes croisées au niveau des structures relevant de l'État Sénégalais. Je travaillais avec un expert de la banque mondiale à Dakar : Mr Robidoux du Canada. Félicitations !

Sten Dieden
October 13, 2012

Dear Mr Diop,
I do completely share your belief in the potential of energy to enhance the dismal livelihoods of too many Aftrican households. However, the use of collected firewood among rural poor is not simply "traditional". Fuel collection is a result of households'being shorter on cash than labour time. If electricity is to benefit the truly poor, unless electricity access does not create end-user income in excess of its purchasing (generation and distribution) costs, who is going to pay (and/or subsidize) the electricity bills for the poor, for the foreseeable future?

Per-unit costs of *purchased* energy is likely to be higher for the less affluent, who buy piecemeal. Still, the saved expenditures on purchased fuel, does not imply that end-users can affored to substitute electricity for collected (non-puchased) fuels, which cater for the lion share of the poors' usage. Either I have profoundly misunderstood something, or this question is typically ignored.

No one would be more pleased to take part of a solution to this question, than would I.

Sten Dieden

Makhtar Diop
October 18, 2012

I want people to know that only 1 in 3 Africans has access to electricity on the continent. It’s one of the biggest challenges I see standing in the way of Africa’s lasting progress. And that’s why I’m passionate about helping African countries tackle this challenge. The good news is that there is a consensus around this and a lot is being done.

Clearly, the private sector and local communities, working in close cooperation with governments in public private partnerships, need to be part of the solution to generate more power, be it solar, wind, hydro, or geo-thermal. Less than 10 percent of Africa’s hydropower potential has been harnessed, and there is enormous potential to develop these hydro resources in Africa’s ‘fountain’ states, such as Ethiopia, Cameroon, Guinea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
So the message is clear: let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work to mobilize all of our energy behind cross-border, transformational projects that match the size of the challenge and turn the lights on in homes and businesses across Africa. This is what we at the World Bank are fully committed to doing. So please stay in touch with us and give us your support as we push to turn the power on across Africa.

For more information about our Energy work in Africa, visit http://www.worldbank.org/africa/energy

Khalil DIENE
October 13, 2012

ziar. Serigne Makhtar je vous prie d'integrer les francophones qui comme moi ne peuvent beneficier de vos textes probablements riches en facteurs de developpement.
je tien aussi à mieux vous connaitre pour faire avancer de tres gros projets d'energie au Sénégal. Jerejef.

October 13, 2012


I am a 24 years old senegalese manager & a Business Owner and I am absolutely surprised by the approach you have used in this article. I must admit I am a great supporter of solar energy and would be glad to know more about how to develop this area within the continent.

I have had the chance to work on projects linked to what mentioned above and directly implicating women in villages!

I am looking forward to getting the chance one of these days, to develop more of this in the future.

Best Regards

October 13, 2012

Realy, it's a serious question that needs a long thinking to help our countries increase there capacities to satisfy the needs in energy and particularly the needs in electricity.
I'm an Ingeneer in Electricity or precisely in Electromecanics working in the Senegalese National Electricity Company; we're facing one of the biggest crisis in this domain but sometimes i'm asking if our authorities want to come out this situation; many solutions had been identified that include the reforbiching the existing thermic units, passing by an agressive politic of efficiency or saving energies, to the integration of Renewable energies. Many studies had been done on these subjects, but, every time changies happens in the managing staffs in Ministries or in the national electricity company, all the policy changes, what means each two years all the policy changes.
So the first enemy to fight is the unstabilty of our institutions; we need realy to build a program which will be like a constitution and which will be the base of a performance contract which any manager in the domain have to sign as his first act.

October 12, 2012

I do agree with these sentiments of lighting up the African continent. But I do also believe that we should also light up the continent with High Speed Optical Fibre Links in Tandem with Electrical Power. This will give most Africans access to information that is crucial for the development of the continet. The World Bank therefore and the IMF should improve the funding to the ICT sector on the continent to spur this growth.

Dr Sarassa
October 13, 2012

I'm pharmacist. I live in senegal, in the darkness. I work in health, but we can not realize our ambition. We have no electricity! Our machines are always off.

je suis pharmacienne, je vis au sénégal, dans l'obscurité. Dans la santé, on a pas les moyens de nos ambitions. Il n'y a pas d'électricité pour nos appareils. Les usines de production sont quasi-inexistantes à cause de facture d'électricité trop élévée. Je sais qu'il existe de nombreuses solutions notament un barrage hydraulique au fleuve Congo qui fournirait 40% de l'énergie pour toute l'afrique. Au sénégal on pourrait installer des dragons de mer comme ceux de Sydney.

Amadou D KANE
October 13, 2012

L'accès à l'énergie électrique est une des clés du développement de l'Africains; Pour produire les entreprises ont besoin d'avoir un accès illimité à l'énergie électrique; l'origine fossile de l'énergie électrique produite et le coût élevé du pétrole jouent sur la compétitivité des entreprises; la faiblesse de l'offre en énergie électrique limite les possibilités de développement des entreprises et participe à la limitation de l'activité économique; à ces facteurs il faut ajouter la part importante d'énergie électrique consommée par les ménages, dans la tranche d'heure de 19h à 24H et même au delà.

Les pays Africains non producteurs de pétrole ou de gaz devraient faire plus appel aux énergies renouvelables, le solaire PV ou thermique accroché aux réseaux de ces pays la journée, l'énergie éolienne quand le vent se lève ou à la biomasse, pour limiter leur consommation de produits fossiles aux seules heures de pointe nocturne.

En faisant appel à des partenaires intervenant en B.O.O, nos Etats limiteraient les dépenses liées à l'achat du pétrole et négocieraient le meilleur prix pour une période de 25 ans.

Nous pourrions économiser de 30 à 40% de nos factures pétrolières et consacrer les sommes ainsi disponibles au financement de pôles de développement régionaux, à la création d'entreprises régionales et à la génération d'emplois au niveau des régions.

Nos Etats répondraient ainsi aux aspirations de nos populations, avec l'énergie disponible, avec des emplois dans les régions pour lutter contre l'exode rural et le phénomène de pirogues dans l'océan et son cortège de morts.

La question dans ce contexte est : est ce que nous avons la volonté de braver le pouvoir des sociétés pétrolières pour limiter notre consommation de pétrole?

J'ose croire que nous allons nous engager dans une dynamique de diversification des sources de génération d'énergie électrique, car c'est la seule solution à cet énorme gaspillage de ressources

Matar DIOP
October 13, 2012

Hi Makhtar, that's a great job. We really appreiciate these projects that you're working on.
I am really interested to work out as possible as I can to figure out a part for electricity Senegal. So you give me more commitment.
Thanks a lot and good luck!

October 14, 2012

i would've completed "Our job at the World Bank is not done until all Africans can turn the lights on at home, at work, and nationwide ANYTIME"

October 14, 2012

Africa does not need nuclear power station, oil or coal to burn for energy supply. Africa received enough sunlight to be self sufficient and autonomous to have it's own power suplly , even enough to supply parts of Europe. Africa should concentrate on latest technology to abosrb sun supplied energy and turn it into supply for the continent. To achieve to the point of end product and ready to supply, African states should have honest and non corrupt leader that would not tie any deal with company's such as EDf, Shell, Bp, texaco. exxon et. , any western pioneer of energy supply should be avoided. Africa don't need 22nd century style colonisation. Africa can stand on its own feet, without any develop western world assistance.

Idir Benferhat
October 14, 2012

The poorest African countries in infrastructures are also the ones who spend millions of dollars in generators and fuel.

There is one single reason for that: Banks do not finance Solar systems.

Even though the business case is always positive, and the return on investment is quick, but still there is no real will to promote solar energy.

A lot of talk, but on the field, nothing...

October 15, 2012

I appreciate your article and what you are aspiring to do but as they say I am a cynical. I work in Uganda where there is a big push for rural electrification funded by the bank and other donors. The problem is that many of these projects work on the pretext that villagers need power but forget that power is not really a priority for them. The question should be if a rural person was given a choice between power and food what would they chose? They would rather spend money on other critical demand like health than power and so these projects end up becoming white elephants. The bank has first of all to understand the poverty in these countries and then plan their electrification programs based on that otherwise they will continue to fail.

October 15, 2012

The fact that u grew up ΐϞ senegal, truly means you deeply understand the extent at which Africa faces shortages ΐϞ light supply. I do mean to ask how many projects you have started and ΐϞ how many countries across Africa. And how possible ȋ̝̊̅§ it that Africa will be able to enjoy light to a certain degree ΐϞ the next few decades.

October 15, 2012

Dear Makhtar,

Mine is more of a question than a comment. I have often heard it said (by lay people), that if we put a dam on the Congo it could power the entire African continent. This is probably an exaggeration, but here's my question, or questions:

First, is there a dam on the Congo? If not, is it technically feasible and environmentally sustaianble to put one? And were it possible, how much power would it produce?

Bola Aromiwura
October 26, 2012

Electricity, Agriculture & Health are the priority areas that will kick start Africa's Development. Active mobilization of all concerned will go a long way. Corruption had done a lot of havoc to the development process and it must be addressed or else the efficiency of the resources will continue to be low and only very little will be achieved. There is the need to lay emphacies on ethics and probity to fast track the process.

October 23, 2012

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Gopal Darbari
October 31, 2012

Dear Mr. Makhtar Diop
It was a very positive and real presentation depicting the present scenereo in Africa, where extreemly low percentage of people at the Bottom of Pyramid are deprived the essential element of light, i.e. LIGHT.
I am from India, which has faced many such challanges, since independence 65 years ago. Every thing was imported from a needle to Telephone, Radio, Cars and Buses, etc. Even stationery like Pen, Pencil and Ink, were imported from UK. No effort was made by ruling Govt. from UK, before independence, to develop the technology to produce even essential goods. Indian leaders then had a vision for India, who encouraged entrepreneurs. Today I am proud to state that India has developed into a fairly advanced in various areas of technology.
Appreciating needs of Sub Saharan region, particularly for Lighting, we developed a very specific & Innovative Home and small business lighting system, at affordable cost. This small system works very differently, using Solar energy and storing energy in Battery. System is very simple, reliable and provide Lighting for children to study, Doctors to work in their clinic, People can socialize, etc.
We are displaying our products at 3rd Lighting Africa Expo at Dakar, Senegal during 13th to 15th Nov, 2012. Our Senior Officers and R&D engineers shall be at the Booth, B01-22, to discuss how young entrepreneurs in Sub Sahara region can manufacture them locally and help people in Africa. We want to train and explain how solar lighting products can be manufactured in Africa.
We shall be greatly obliged if you visit our Booth and talk about how we, from India, help Africa build their own Solar Lighting products.

lambang club bola
September 11, 2014

Thanks for your article.