Africa is rich in energy resources but power poor, how the AfDB is working to change this

With the lowest power consumption per capita in the world, sub-Saharan Africa is arguably the darkest section of the global village with investments, social and economic growth and jobs creation hobbled by frequent outages, load shedding and total black outs. Over 645 million Africans lack access to electricity.

Yet the continent is rich in energy resources, with well over 10 terawatts of solar potential, 350 gigawatts of hydroelectric potential, 110 gigawatts of wind potential, and an additional 15 gigawatts of geothermal potential. All of these is outside Africa’s huge reserves of coal and gas, which can provide some of the continent’s cheapest electricity.

Surrounded by energy wealth, most Africans still wonder why their countries are so power poor. From the comfort of their friend’s home in the Kingdom of Lesotho, Augustine and his wife Anna, usually spend their evenings staring at the vast Katse dam, the highest dam in Africa, located on the Malibamatso River. They marvel at the evidence of what Mankind can achieve. Lesotho sells billions of litres of the “White Gold” from this dam to neighboring South Africa; the dam also pumps 72 Megawatts of electricity into the national grid.

Completed in 2009, the Katse dam’s imposing 132 KV transmission towers and lines that connect to the grid disappear into the horizon, beyond the towering Maluti mountains that have stood firm for at least 200 million years. Augustine is however moody, most of the time. Saddened by the fact that many of his compatriots still do not have access to electricity, several of their vital social and commercial needs remain unmet due to lack of electricity.

This scenario is Africa-wide. The lack of access to electricity cuts off the vital wants of society. Clearly, children under-perform for lack of electricity as schools and homes lack electricity and lives are at risk at hospitals across the continent, as lifesaving equipment lie comatose, unable to be deployed for the purposes they were purchased and installed for.

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