Yes, we have all heard the stories that 7-8 of the fastest growing economies in the world today are in Sub-Saharan Africa. This growth is project to remain high for 2013, according to both the IMF and World Bank, and over the next 20 years, with GDP rates between 5.8-7 percent.
Here are some factoids to ponder: Only 1 in 4 Africans has access to electricity, inter-African trade is about 10 per cent of total exports, and only about 30 per cent of the region has paved roads or working railways. The entire installed generation capacity of the 48 countries in SSAfrica is 68 gigawatts, and 25 percent of that capacity is unavailable because of aging or non-functioning plants and poor maintenance. A good example that makes the energy-infrastructure link so stark for the Sub-Saharan region is that Spain alone produces more electricity for its population than the entire SSAfrica region does for its population.
Last but not least, we cannot forget renenewables in this discussion, which need to be focused on alongside of clean fossil fuel uses. Given the population demographics I already mentioned, sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives are a must, particularly for the 600 million people in Africa’s rural areas without electricity.
Here are some things to think about and some recommendations:
The European Joint Research Center report also noted a few interesting things to consider when identifying renewable options for the African Continent:
Furthermore the Solar Energy Society of South of Africa further highlighted the job creation aspect of renewables:
In the end the message is: We need to keep in mind the link between energy and infrastructure and the attendant issues of population and demographics, particularly as SSAfrica continues toward 1.9 billion people. Job creation needs increase as a result. Africa’s efforts to pivot its focus, resources and talent toward addressing in a more comprehensive, effective, and efficient manner its energy infrastructure gap is paramount to sustainable economic development.
Maintaining the current economic gains or economic boom, and changing the lives of the millions who live in poverty is dependent on these changes.