24 April 2016 – Energy in Africa is a scarcer commodity than in the developed world. Fifteen percent of the world’s population lives on the African continent, yet they represent only 3 percent of global electricity consumption.
Electricity consumption per capita in sub-Saharan Africa is, on average, less than that needed to power a 50-watt light bulb continuously. The 48 sub-Saharan countries have a combined installed generation base of only 68 GW, according to the African Development Bank Group.
This is roughly equal to the generation capacity of Spain, a country whose population is less than 5 percent of that of sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011, the international community initiated a drive towards achieving universal access to modern energy services by 2030 under the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All).
Substantially increasing energy access rates has the potential to make a significant contribution to lifting people out of poverty, creating more dignified living conditions and expanding economic opportunities.
The current high level of energy poverty across Africa undermines the economic and social development of the continent. It can also fuel political instability and can even have an influence upon the creation of failed states.
Indeed, worldwide there appears to be a strong correlation between political stability and higher electrification rates.
Historically, access to, and utilisation of modern energy technologies has played a huge role in the improvement of the quality of life of human beings.
Much of human activity revolves around securing adequate, and appropriate food and accessing conditions of thermal comfort.
Access to modern energy services (defined by the International Energy Agency as household access to electricity and clean cooking facilities) makes it much easier for individual households to meet these needs.
They help individuals to feed themselves and their families, to feel secure, comfortable and healthy in their homes, to communicate more effectively and access information and entertainment and to take advantage of opportunities to develop income generating activities and thus improve family livelihoods.
Improving the reliability and coverage of energy systems is absolutely crucial for a successful industrialisation process that can foster the growth of new industries with meaningful value addition.
Lack of access to modern energy systems has slowed down the socio-economic development of African countries, and their participation in the global economy remains marginal due to inflexible and inadequate energy systems.
How then should we go about meeting the energy needs of the continent?
The two additional goals of the SE4All for our leaders are to achieve the radical transformations in energy access whilst actively driving down global carbon emissions via the promotion of low-carbon technologies and energy efficiency.
It is important that the North and South work together to support all African countries to achieve the ambitious goals encapsulated within the SE4All.
*Ed Brown and Zivayi Chiguvare – The Herald