How Much New Energy Does Africa Really Need ?

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Africa Power Need Growth from 2030

Unmet Power Needs - Africa 2030

This article comes from a post at the Center for Global Development by Todd Moss and Madeleine Gleave. They ask, how much power does Africa really need? Their answer is ... a lot.

Here is their bottom line:

  • • As these countries poulations grow larger and richer (they are all posting impressive real GDP growth rates), the demand for electricity is going to be significantly higher than the modest targets currently envisioned by the international community.
  • • Nigeria’s ambitious electricity expansion plans to reach 10,000 MW are only the tip of the iceberg. To reach Tunisia-level consumption, it will need at least five times that level of electricity generation.?
  • • Even if President Obama’s “Power Africa” is a success, there’s a whole lot more pent-up demand out there!


Restricted energy grids and limited incomes make it hard to own or operate modern electrical appliances, but plenty of Africans would consume a whole lot more energy if it was available. Regular rolling blackouts suggest that countries aren’t producing enough energy to meet current demand, let alone what would be necessary to achieve universal access by 2030.

So Africa definitely needs a lot more energy, but how much more? And will the White House’s new Power Africa initiative make a serious dent?

Asking “how much energy production does Africa need to meet demand?” is not too different from asking “how much food should Africa grow to end hunger?” Any estimates require big assumptions about baseline data, undernourishment thresholds, nutrition gaps, average diet composition, availability of land, seeds, and fertilizer, seasonal growing periods, efficiency of distribution networks, spoilage rates, and so on. The result is therefore highly imprecise, but it does provide some sense of the order of magnitude.

They’ve made an attempt at such an estimate for current demand in the six countries targeted by President Obama’s new signature initiative, Power Africa. In each they use three different thresholds: the IEA’s minimum and the average consumption profiles for Tunisia and South Africa. Admittedly, it’s a very, very rough estimate, but the size of the future energy gap is massive.

Without help from renewable or alternative energy sources, where will all this extra electricity for Africa come from?

Africa Power Targets





Allan Barker

October 13th 2013



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