What is energy/power poverty?
According to Schneider Electric, energy poverty is lack of access to modern energy services. It refers to the situation of large numbers of people in developing countries whose well-being is negatively affected by very low consumption of energy, use of dirty or polluting fuels, and excessive time spent collecting fuel to meet basic needs. African countries are referred to as being “energy poor” due to the fact that most African countries still have no access to clean cooking facilities and electricity. People still use candles and lanterns in their homes, hospitals are without access to electricity and women are forced to give birth with candle lights every year. This is mostly because the supply of energy is far below its demands.
How many people in Africa live without any access to electricity?
Roughly 24 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa have access to electrical power; that is 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa — nearly twice the population of the United States is living without access to electricity. Africa represents 43% of the 1.4 billion people worldwide who lack regular access to electricity. Majority of these people can be found in the sub-Saharan Africa, though not really in secluded towns and villages. Besides, regions with access to power are suffering from rolling blackouts.
In contrast with Sub-Saharan African countries, 97% of North African countries’ citizens- Egypt, Morocco, have constant access to electricity supply whilst Sub-Saharan countries like Chad, Malawi, South-Sudan, Liberia supply less than 10% of their citizens with any form of electricity.
What challenge is the African power sector facing?
According to the World Bank, poor reliability, insufficient capacity and high costs are the key reasons for limited access to electricity in Africa. Below are other reasons:
Population growth without conforming power growth: According to population experts, the population of Africa is projected to increase by 1.3 billion between 2013 and 2050. Yet, if available electrical power fails to conform to a country’s population increase, there will power shortages in such a country. Presently, Africa’s population does not conform to its power demand; demand for electricity is high, while supply is very low. To ensure that Africans have adequate access to power especially as global population size is expected to rise, power infrastructures must be improved correspondingly.
Low maintenance of already installed facilities: Sadly in many African countries, most installed facilities are not properly maintained, while some do not have the necessary equipment for maintaining them, still, others do not have the personnel needed to check them. This serves as a major challenge especially when power infrastructures get faulty.
Other obstacles to electricity supply in Sub-Saharan Africa include:
- Insufficient national and continental collective efforts
- Inadequate manufacturing infrastructure and over-dependence on foreign technology
- Insufficient human capacity development
- High cost of power projects in region
- High cost of primary energy to fuel present and new assets
What is the possible solution?
The best solution for Africa is to adopt the latest trends in renewables. Presently, some foreign organizations are in partnership with some African countries in the hope to help solve the lack of access to electricity.
Power Africa: Power Africa is a Government initiative launched by President Barack Obama in 2013. The initiative aims at increasing power capacity, supporting economic growth and providing access to cleaner, reliable, affordable and sustainable power in Africa. Power Africa intends to add about 30,000 Megawatts of cleaner power generation by 2030 to all sub-Saharan Africa, by installing 60 million new connections. Currently, programs are in place to maximize existing electricity transactions, as well as motivate investments to tap into natural resources such as hydro, solar, biomass, gas, geothermal and wind.
Is Africa Cursed with Electricity shortage?
No, Sub-Saharan Africa’s power conditions are not peculiar, if North Africa could achieve close to 100% electricity supply to its people, Sub-Saharan Africa can achieve same or more. Africa is endowed with an abundance of power generating resources – Hydro, Coal, Solar, as well as human resources; developed countries only worked on their power capacities to provide access to power for all their people. African countries need to make power supply to all citizens a priority, maximise all available resources, and seek external help and support to supply adequate electricity to all its citizens.
Ultimately, if Africa can truly harness the abundance of renewables at her disposal, there is still some hope left for the continent.