Africa’s Critical Energy Infrastructure in the Spotlight

Most infrastructure investments on the continent are in the energy sector, but power plants and transmission lines across Africa, most of which were erected in the 1950s and 1960s, operate today at just a fraction of installed capacity due to insufficient maintenance and lack of modernisation.

Across the continent, infrastructure is either disrupted, damaged or non-existent. However, investment in energy infrastructure is critical to the continent reaching its economic potential and exploiting its current growth trends.

Meeting the demands for Africa’s critical energy infrastructure was in the spotlight at the annual Infrastructure Africa Business Forum, which concluded on Wednesday at the Sandton Convention Centre. According to the Africa Progress Panel (APP) in its recent “Power, People, Planet” report, Sub-Saharan African governments should be aiming to increase electricity generation capacity tenfold and achieve universal access to electricity by 2030. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recommends that Africa raise energy generation by 4% per year to 2040.

Sub-Saharan Africa has only 90GW of electricity generation capacity and energy constraints are costing the continent 2%-4% of GDP per year. But some progress is evident. There are now 130 independent power providers in sub-Saharan Africa and about 27 private equity investments were made in energy between 2010 and 2013, valued at $1,2bn. This boost is partly due to President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative, increased energy cooperation between Europe and Africa, Chinese project finance for large-scale power projects, and South Africa’s renewable energy programme.

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