The electrification of Africa
A GCR special report into the surge of power construction that will transform the continent over the next six years.
Sub-Saharan Africa is made up of 49 countries, with a total population of about 826 million. Together, they have an installed generating capacity of 68GW. This is equivalent to the electricity output of Iran (62GW). About 65% of this capacity is provided by one country: South Africa.
Unfortunately, the generating equipment, substations and grids of these 49 countries are often in need of repair or replacement, which means that available power is well below installed capacity: in countries that have suffered civil war, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), only 48% of installed capacity finds its way to a plug socket.
The result of all this is in about 80% of Sub-Saharan Africa, cooking is accomplished by burning wood or other biomass and lighting is by means of oil lamps. What electricity there is is produced by expensive diesel generators.
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The present situation is the result of a century of under-investment. The World Bank estimates that external spending on the entire continent’s power sector has been $600m a year – hardly enough to maintain what is there now. It is clear that a surge in investment is needed to refurbish the existing infrastructure and create national and international grids before they will be able to distribute additional generating capacity.
This is now changing. The main actor in the transformation of Africa has been Chinese capital, more recently joined by India and, in the Maghreb, the Gulf states. The financing is funding the exploitation of the continent’s vast reserves of fossil fuel, and its potential reserves of renewables and hydroelectric power.
This extra power will then allow the exploitation of mineral resources, and so make available more money for the power sector. This virtuous circle may eventually make possible a wider transformation of ordinary life, such as allowing schoolchildren sufficient light to do homework, or allowing municipal governments to think about commissioning public transport systems.
In some cases, such as Ethiopia and the DRC, the country’s entire future has been predicated on electricity generation. The former’s Grand Renaissance Dam is being partly financed by bonds bought by the population; the latter’s Great Inga Dam may eventually provide two-thirds of the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa’s present generating capacity.
These maps present an assessment of how Africa’s electricity generating industry will develop in the next six years. They are predominantly based on schemes that are either under way, or have received funding, although in some cases, such as Nigeria and Cameroon, we have taken an optimistic view of the government’s stated target.
Algeria Capacity is set to triple by 2017 thanks to six gas-powered stations, five built by Korean firms Samsung, Hyundai, GS-Daelim and Daewoo, one by Spanish engineer Duro Felguera.
Angola This country will invest $23bn by 2017 to increase its electricity network. The government plans to increase output to 9GW by 2025 compared with 1.8GW now. About 15 plants are on the drawing board, and firms such as Brazil’s Odebrecht are in line to build them. Much additional work will be taken up with repairing the damage left by the 30-year civil war (installed capacity is 1.2GW, but available capacity is 930MW). The biggest single scheme is the Laúca Dam, in northern Kwanza Norte Province, which is designed to provide 5GW of capacity by 2017.
Botswana This industry is coal and oil-based. The plan is to expand the Morupule facility and build a greenfield coal plant to expand capacity from 420MW to 1GW.
Cameroon The country aims to increase its generating capacity from 1.1GW to 3GW by 2020.
Côte d’Ivoire The government has announced that it plans to increase capacity from 1.2GW to 3.5GW by 2016. The main means of achieving this is private sector investment: 66 projects have been thrown open to independent power producers, among them Ciprel subsidiaryof French construction conglomerate Bouygues. At present generation is split 60:40 between thermal and hydro, and both are to be expanded. The largest project under way is the 275MW hydroelectric plant at Soubre which is being built by Sinohydro.
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