Africa's energy consumption growing fastest in world
Africa's energy demands are skyrocketing, but with 64 recent major discoveries of fuel deposits, it is in a good position to meet its needs.
As the sun sets over Africa each day, instead of flicking a light switch or heating up the oven, most people put a match to a kerosene lantern or a burning ember to a charcoal stove.Skip to next paragraph
Africa, home to 15 percent of the world’s population, consumes just 3 percent of the world's energy output, and 587 million people, including close to three-quarters of those living in sub-Saharan Africa, still have no access to electricity via national grids.
But the situation is changing, and swiftly. At 4.1 percent growth, Africa’s per capita energy consumption is growing faster than that of any other country, driven by improved infrastructure, inward investment, and efforts to tackle corruption.
Meanwhile, in the past five years, there have been 64 major discoveries of potential new fuel supplies – mostly oil and gas deposits. Of those, 13 were found in the first eight months of 2012 alone.
RECOMMENDED: Top 5 nations that use renewable energy
“The potential impact is ginormous,” says Bob McBean, former managing director of Dubai Natural Gas Company and now chairman of Wentworth Resources, an oil and gas exploration and production firm in Tanzania.
“It’s very, very exciting, and it constantly puts me in mind of natural resource finds in the Gulf 20 years ago. Assuming everybody comes onto the same page in terms of financing and regulation, there’s no reason why there should be any national power shortages at all in the future,” he adds.
Holding Africa back
That ambition cannot be realized too soon.
Currently fewer than 1 in 6 rural Africans is connected to a national electricity supply. Even in the continent’s more developed nations, the situation is dire: 84 percent of Kenyans, 81 percent of Ugandans, and 65 percent of Sudanese are off the grid.
Using kerosene lanterns and charcoal cookstoves at home causes as many as 1.4 million premature deaths from respiratory illnesses, according to the World Health Organization. Chopping down trees to burn as fuel harms the environment more than coal-fired power stations.
“Using inefficient energy sources both in energy and economic terms continues to keep large sections of [Africa’s] population from the benefits of development,” said Aly Ngouille Ndiaye, Senegal’s minister of energy and mines.
The continent’s growth cannot be accelerated without addressing the lack of reliable energy supply on a continent clearly endowed with untapped fuel resources, he added.
Generators sap profits
Businesses desperate to be competitive in an increasingly global marketplace despair as bills to fuel and service generators clip several crucial percentage points off their profits.
There are significant moves to expand renewable energy production across Africa.
A British firm announced this month that it will build the world's fourth-largest solar power plant in western Ghana, a 155-megawatt project that will be operational by 2015 and increase the country's electricity supplies by 6 percent.
Making a Difference