A profile of energy in Africa today and in the future


In a continent that holds 13% of the world’s population, it is surprising to see that it also happens to hold 48% of the world’s population without access to energy. Especially with the growing rate of the economy, population and urban growth, it is easy for us to understand why energy is such a scarce and expensive resource. While the continent is said to have energy poverty (lack of access to sources of energy), this is highly unlikely to be true because over the past few decades, there has been immense growth in the energy production and this only continues to grow.


Due to not only the lack of investment in the energy sector in the past, we see how there is so much untapped potential for energy development and production in the continent. The entire continent has the energy generation capacity of up to 1.2 terrawatts which is enough to power 1.2 billion lightbulbs all at the same time and this doesn’t even include solar energy. When we take it into account, the continent will be able to produce 10 more terrawatts of energy, enough to match the growing demand for energy.


One of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations includes ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’. In the past, there had been untapped potential for renewable energy in the form of geothermal energy (energy from the earth in the form of heat such as hot springs or volcanoes) or hydropower (energy generated from moving water). Now however, the momentum of change has been slowly picking up in recent years, showing that Africa is not far off from having sustainable use of energy through renewable sources (sources of energy that are not finite). Especially due to its nearly unlimited potential, solar energy can reduce CO2 emissions by 27% thus achieving the SDG goal and reducing direct impacts of the energy industry on the environment. This will also create 2.5 million new jobs throughout the continent, leading to further growth of the economy.


For economic growth to take place, a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly more prevalent, it is necessary for an appropriate power infrastructure to exist for support. Recent growth in the energy sector includes programs like Power Africa in the United States, Energy Africa Campaign in the United Kingdom and direct investments in the sector from China. These investments show that the time is right for the growth of the energy industry in Africa, making it possible for it to be one of the world’s leading producers of clean energy through sustainable means.




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