Africa running out of breath to supply electricity to its communities

Africa running out of breath to supply electricity to its communities

Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Ivory Coast, Zambia, DRC, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, Mali… the list is long and shocking. The African continent, especially the sub-Saharan region, seems to have run out of options and breath to supply its communities with electricity on a consistent basis.

And where there is electricity, the supply is unstable and insignificant,  frustrating the already impoverished populations and inconsistent economies.

All over, the demons of power outage and load-shedding roar and show no sign of abating.

Experts say the causes are the same everywhere: ageing infrastructure, outdated technology, financial mismanagement, lack of political will, under-investment and dubious policies, and lack of reforms in the sector – an industry many governments desperately want to hold on and control at all costs.

London-based energy expert Nigel Blackaby, of the Renewable Energy World and US-based PenWell Corporation, tells Moon the South: “Sub-Saharan African countries need to build new capacity and make it attractive to outside investors to provide the capital to do so.”

Many observers believe that the power crisis may slow down the continent’s fast-increasing growth, and plunge the jobs sector into a world of uncertainty, which could lead to further street protests.

Frustration and unhappiness are already gripping many cities and towns across Africa due to the instability of electricity supply or the lack of it in their areas.

Blackaby calls on countries to exploit whatever resources they have for power generation, including solar power, where he says prices have fallen fast, and which is ideally suited to small-scale and remote situations.

“It will not be easy, but there are many success stories around Africa that can be drawn upon,” he says.

Impoverished sub-Saharan Africa’s installed energy capacity is only 55 000 MW, with South Africa accounting for about 36 000 MW of this amount, according to the PenWell Corporation.

As countries wake up late and plan to embark on an ‘aggressive’ energy investment, all industry watchers cast their eagle’s eyes on Sub-Saharan Africa’s 10 ‘darling’ markets, designated by a MasterCard Worldwide report to lead the region’s transformation.

The 10 markets, dubbed ‘Africa 10’, are South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Collectively, these 10 nations account for 45.3% and 68% of sub-Sahara Africa’s population and Gross Domestic Product (GDP), respectively, according to the World Bank.

These 10 governments are being heavily criticised for dragging their feet to invest in new power technologies and delay the exploration of renewable energies, a sector analysts believe will give a much-needed boost both their economies and the fight against climate change and pollution.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and biggest oil producer, has been battling with power outages for the past 10 years or so, and these show no sign of going away, as the lack of political will and state corruption have stifled any attempt of investing aggressively in this sector.

A total of 9874 power outages have been recorded in Nigeria between 2003 and 2005, the Medwell Journals reveals, citing a summary report from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The Medwell Journal attributes Nigeria’s power outages, among others, to ageing of equipment and lines leading to frequent conductor and jumper cuts, frequent earth faults resulting from reduction in overhead clearance and refuse burning, and circuit breaker problems.

Overloading of transformers and vandalisation have also been cited as causes of power outages in the Nigeria transmission network.

PhotoFatuma Camara. A street lighting pole in the Sengalese capital Dakar

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