Africa, the people’s homeland of pride and religion is endowed with various sources of renewable energy which are yet to be explored to its maximum. The continents’ renewable energy geography cuts across North, South and Sub-Saharan Africa, with North and South Africa being energy efficient and leading the renewable energy revolution in the continent while the sub Saharan Africa, depends virtually on crude biomass. With the continent’s yearly exponential growth in population, the demand for energy has been on the increase for sustainable well-being and economic development. 

Access to energy is an essential component of economic and social development. It enables individual development by aiding poverty reduction and improving educational and sanitary conditions as well as the development of economic activity through the mechanization and modernization of energy production processes. Africa is endowed with a considerable potential of fossils, solar energy, hydro energy and geo-thermal energy but it suffers from severe energy deficit. The continent’s energy resources are under-utilized, exported in crude forms or even wasted. As a result, the available supply is wanting and energy consumption is widely dominated by biomass, with the exception of a few countries of the continent which are energy efficient. 

Geothermal energy is the form of energy generated as heat from rocks and underground water. This energy can be channelled into geothermal plants for conversion into electricity, using steam that is naturally stored underground. While deep heat resources are available everywhere, areas prone to volcanoes or near hot springs are rich sources for this form of energy. Africa’s known geothermal potential is concentrated in East Africa, in the geologically active area of the Great Rift Valley, which extends from Djibouti to Mozambique. The total potential geothermal capacity in Africa is estimated to be around 15 GW, of which only 0.6% is currently exploited (Hafner et al., 2018). 

The same is true for the continent’s hydro energy potential. With its major river basins (Congo, Nile, Senegal, Niger, Zambezi, Volta, Orange), Sub Saharan Africa is endowed with a huge hydropower potential. Congo basin which accounts for over 40% total water discharge could be termed the largest in the continent. Most of the potential is found in Central Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon), but estimates are also noteworthy in East Africa (Ethiopia), Southern Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar) and West Africa (Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal) (Hafner et al., 2018). 

The potential of solar energy in Africa is naturally high. The continent is located between latitudes 37°N and 32°S and spans a vast area that crosses the equator and both tropics. As of today, the five largest solar markets in Africa are South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Ghana and Egypt. Compared to solar potential, wind potential is less fairly distributed across the continent. The main factor determining the geography of wind potential is wind speed, in turn highly dependent on pressure gradients and the shape of the landscape. Hence the presence of deserts, coastlines, and natural channels, all play in favour of high wind speeds. In Africa, the best wind quality can be found in the rugged regions of Sahara and Sahel (all countries, including the most central Niger, Chad, and Sudan), along the coast (in mountainous areas of South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia), and in some parts of East Africa, especially along the Great Rift Valley (Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania (Hafner et al., 2018). Similar to solar, one can observe an exponential growth of wind power capacity installed in Africa in the past years and point at the biggest five wind power markets that are driving this growth. They are South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya. 

From the above, one can easily deduce the large resourceful deposit of renewable energy in Africa. They can be harnessed through the implementation of the following:


Investor’s Friendly Policies

The need for strong and committed policies towards the goal of exploring the huge potentials of renewable energy in Africa cannot be overemphasized. Not surprisingly, the top of the ranking occupied by South Africa and North African countries couldn’t have been anything more but their strong policy commitment and investments. The same can be replicated in other African countries. Sub Saharan countries are already picking up, with Ghana already an established market, and others increasingly committed. For example, Nigeria recently issued the first African green bonds and Kenya is leading innovation in the field of micro-grids and stand-alone solar systems. 

Unfortunately, instead of mapping out policies and committing themselves to investment into renewable energy, most African governments rather choose to spend their finance on subsidies for biomass products. This will lead to nothing but satisfying their present need in the nation while sacrificing a great future to the winds. Redirecting these resources into productive energy investments represents a vital step in reshaping Africa’s energy systems. Strong and committed government policies will provide an enabling environment for local and foreign investors especially in the area of security, protection of contract and ownership of property rights. No investor would love to spend money on renewable energy in a region that cannot guarantee their safety and the safety of their investment.  

Also, committed policies will lead to human and manpower investment. This will help train Africans on the use and installation of emerging technologies for renewable energy. This will acquit them with the appropriate technological knowledge for renewable energy processes so as to minimize and eliminate energy losses caused by miniature technicians and inadequate machine maintenance. As much as renewables are increasing in competitiveness, private investors willing to develop renewable projects face significant costs and risks. This is true for small-scale installations as well as for projects of regional significance. The challenge of governments is therefore to increase the confidence of investors through policy and financial de-risking measures. 


International Community Intervention

Nations in Africa, who have the political will, can seek the intervention of the international community towards achieving the goal of standard sustainable energy feature for all. Given the massive costs required to increase power generation capacity in Africa the ability of governments to influence funding from the international community for renewable energy projects is crucial. International Renewable Energy Agency, the World Bank, International Solar Energy Society, International Energy Agency and a host of other world bodies are always willing to render their services if given the opportunity.


Transparency and Accountability

Actualization of the sustainable renewable energy feature in Africa demands a compelling and sincere level of accountability and sincerity while carrying out renewable energy projects. Any serious African nation would woo the international community for investment with zero tolerance for corruption and fraud related activities. This will build the trust and confidence of the international community for that nation.

Renewable energies, which are becoming more and more competitive, will play a key role in the industrialization and electrification of the African continent, through a mix of centralised and decentralised production.

Reference: Hafner M.,Tagliapietra S.,and Strasser L., (2018). Energy in Africa Challenges and Opportunities. Springer Nature publishers Switzerland. Pp 1-125


EZE CHINECHEREM CHUKWUEMEKA is a content writer with The Young Leaders Council


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