620m Africans with no electricity cannot wait for grid expansion – APP

A new report “Lights, Power, Action: Electrifying Africa,” by the Africa Progress Panel (APP) has said that 620 million people in Africa currently without any form of electricity cannot wait until the national grids in their countries get to them.

The report called for the adoption of every available on-grid and off-grid solution to light up and power Africa, adding that big power projects which most governments of the continent look to, are expensive and take time to complete.

According to the report which was recently launched in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire by APP and African Development Bank (AfDB), of the 315 million people who could gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 per cent will be connected to national grids.

Most of them, it added will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems. It also indicated that traditional approaches to extending the grid are no longer practical as the main option for African countries.

Chair of the APP and former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, and the President of AfDB, Akinwumi Adesina, were at the launch of the report, and they called on African governments and their partners to do everything possible to close the continent’s huge energy gap.

“What we are advocating is for African governments to harness every available option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible, so that everyone is included and no one is left behind,” said Annan at the launch.

He further stated: “Traditional approaches to extending the grid are no longer viable as the main option for African countries. They will take too long and will not meet the needs of our growing economies and societies. Instead, governments and their partners need to seize the opportunity to re-imagine their energy futures.”

Similarly, Adesina explained that: “The electricity deficit in Africa is immense,” adding, “today, 645 million people do not have access to electricity.”

He said: “Yet the continent has abundant supply of solar, hydropower, wind and geothermal potential, as well as significant amounts of natural gas and in some countries coal deposits. Africa has energy potential, yes, but we need to unlock that potential. And we must do so quickly, because Africans are tired of being in the dark.”

Adesina also stated that he drew inspiration from APP’s previous report in developing AfDB’s High 5 development priorities, which places energy as the top priority, and which has, through the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa, committed to investing $12 billion on energy in the next five years and leveraging $45-50 billion from the private sector and other partners.

He noted that the goal would be to connect 130 million households through the grid, 75 million people through off-grid and provide some 130 million households with access to clean cooking energy.

Commending APP for another very insightful report, Adesina said, it will help Africa think through how to achieve the off-grid electricity revolution.

Lights, Power, Action noted that while grid-connected megaprojects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission, they are however slow and expensive.

It stated that governments must then increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install.

The report is an in-depth follow up to the influential 2015 Africa Progress Report, “Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities”.

It urged governments to put in place the incentives needed to encourage greater investment in off-grid and mini-grid systems, protect consumers, and facilitate demand among disadvantaged groups.

It explained that above all, governments need to foster an environment in which companies can enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, climb the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.