Powering Africa

Time to Power Africa Up

By Drive Africa Writer

power crisis if it is to move forward. It is as simple as that. The continent will not achieve long term growth and prosperity without unlocking the power sector. Yes, Africa has made significant gains in the last of couple of decades, even becoming the world’s second fastest growing region. But to sustain that growth and to consolidate its gains there needs to be universal access to energy. Africa needs to decisively address its energy poverty. The statistics are dismal. We have all heard how that Spain’s entire installed capacity is equivalent to that of the entire African continent and that over 600 million people across the continent do not have access to power. This accounts for over half of the people around the world that do not have power access. In many African countries, over
half of the population do not have access to electricity.

Image Credit: Guardian

Many of the continent’s people still use wood and charcoal, with all their accompanying environmental consequences. Power outages are a normal part of the business day for many African businesses who have to invest in back up power  generation equipment to keep their businesses running. Some estimates indicate that only seven or eight Sub-Saharan African countries have electrification rates of over 50% of their populations. For a continent whose people still have to contend with grinding poverty, high costs of doing business, and other developments concerns the current energy picture should be unacceptable It calls for drastic action, innovation, and steely political resolve. This surely cannot be the time for rhetoric which does not move the needle and deliver results. The continent and its people desperately needs more power plants, grids, solar farms, wind farms, off grid systems-all of it. Of course, there have been a lot initiatives lately which have been designed to address Africa’s energy challenges.


Governments, multilateral institutions, development finance institutions, and private sector players are announcing initiatives to boost investments in the sector. And these initiatives are certainly welcome. The African Development Bank has announced its New Deal on Energy. The United Nations has its own United Nations Energy for All Initiative The US government launched the Power Africa Initiative and has recently signed the Electrify Africa act into law. The UK has the Energy Africa initiative. And large scale power projects are being mooted across the continent from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s inga dam to Ethiopia’s grand renaissance dam. Morocco has recently announced the world’s largest solar power plant. These and other projects could position the continent for something of a revolution in the sector. But still the realities on the ground indicate that a lot still needs to be done. Technologies are are outmoded, red tape is still rampant, the inefficiencies of state run utilities are still rife , the investment needs are colossal and more will need to be done to de-risk investments in the sector. Even more crucially, African authorities will need to do more signalling of their seriousness and

low productivity trap. Thus there remains the strategic challenge of undertaking a c o m p r e h e n s i v e   u p g r a d i n g   a n d modernisation of African entrepreneurship. The environment in which world class and globally competitiveness African enterprise can flourish needs to be created. That
should the ultimate goal. It is important to have short term interventions which, for instance seek to promote formalisation of informal enterprises or that seek to provide incubation or acceleration services to high potential enterprises. Such interventions have traditionally been treated in an
uncoordinated and fragmented manner which has not reflected the strategic importance of entrepreneurship to the African economy. But if there is one thing that is clear, it is that entrepreneurship’s place needs to be elevated on the list of national priorities.

African countries will need to develop bold and ambitious programmes that are going to unlock entrepreneurship and private sector development and to position it as Africa’s engine for long term growth. Countries will need to make radically innovative moves that will provide targeted interventions designed to address the often deep  s t ructura l constra i n t s that
entrepreneurs across the continent face. They will need to to what it take to get the job done. These constraints are anything from accessing capital to fund growth to skills in developing new products or skills to strategically assessing and planning new business opportunities . But if a goal is worth achieving, then the price is worth