Africa's Energy Crises: The (Sad) Tale of the 54 Nations

There is no funny, witty or interesting way to bring this to your knowledge. Because it is pretty much a sad story.

If you didn't know, Africa is not a country and there are indeed 54 distinct countries in the continent.

But that is beside the point. Why is Africa dark?... and no, I am not referring to any dark arts, flying witches or witchcraft. We all know those do (not) exist. Neither am I referring to the predominantly dark skin found on the continent (Melanin goodness!). 

I'm referring to the state of electricity in the continent. I know you're tempted to close the page at this point. But please read on. 

I'm a Lawyer currently working in the Energy team, and I've learnt a whole lot so far. So I thought I'd share and see if you geniuses had any solutions to this unwarranted darkness. 

The Bad News

600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are without electricity. I don't mean without 24 hour electricity... I mean no electricity at all! But how can this even be guys? It's been 137 years since the light bulb was invented. Pause. Go back. Read that again. Done? Yes. A whole one hundred and thirty seven years. 

The total installed electricity capacity in Sub Sahara Africa is 68GW. Let's break it down a tad bit. Every electricity produced is measurable in megawatts(MW), so whatever the source of electricity: coal, solar, wind, biomass, nuclear - the output is measurable. Now 68GW is equal to the installed capacity in Spain. Spain has a population of 46.77 million and Sub Saharan Africa has a population of 973.4 million. 

South Africa generates 45% of Africa's electricity. Seriously what are most other countries doing? People are trying to find life in Mars and we still battle electricity issues?

Oh and one more thing. In a lot of the African countries, the entire system was monopolised.  Let's consider the now defunct National Electric Power Station (NEPA) of Nigeria. NEPA was owned by the Government. NEPA owned all of the generating stations. i.e. the coal plants and the water dams used in generating electricity. NEPA owned the transmission lines used to transport the generated electricity to the  grid, NEPA also eventually distributed the electricity to the consumers, and we paid NEPA for the electricity. Talk about Monopoly and possible inefficiencies.

No need to state the other bad news. You know this. Corruption, No skilled workers, Political Instability.  All of these seemingly discourage investors from the continent. 

It's pretty saddening being in a meeting with an investor who after hearing you are Nigerian says 'Oh we've taken the decision as a company not to invest in that country. Too dirty and difficult to do business there'.

Your girl put on a brave face, but inside she's pretty hurt and thinking 'WTH is wrong with our leaders?'


The Good News?

It's not all bad news. There's some light at the end of the tunnel. Literally. 

The potential in Africa is humongous. 

Like the continent is hot! Do you realise how much solar we could generate if we meaningfully use all that sunshine. If European countries with pretty much non-existent sunshine can generate solar electricity, what's our excuse? How much wind we've got? 

And more good news. The monopoly situation in many countries is being unbundled. So in Nigeria, different entities now manage generation, transmission and distribution.

Yet more! There's been some massive investment in Africa energy wise. Consider the below true life story.

Dutch fisherman is randomly having a drink with Dutch Investor.

Dutch Fisherman: Geez, I can't catch anything in that river. The wind is crazy. Never ever seen that kind of wind before.

Dutch Investor: Really? It's that bad. Like there's that much wind?

Dutch investor goes ahead to do some more research. And alas. That region has one of the fastest wind speeds in the world. A wind energy plant (Lake Turkana Plant) is now being built in Kenya and it appears Google has now invested in the project. I think I need to hit the pubs more often. Might meet some potential investors for my blog. Haha. 

Morocco is also doing amazing stuff!  They are set to have the largest solar plant in the world, capable of generating  2000MW of electricity.  They're basically utilising the sunshine in the desert and building solar panels.

Most other nations still use coal as a source of energy. Yes, its not the cleanliest source of electricity and there's all that climate change talk. But we don't mind. Let's just have electricity first...Then we can go on to 'clean' electricity. Not like we contributed to the Climate Change. Nah, we ain't that industrialised. 

Any thoughts on this guys? Any quick fixes and genius solutions?