Africa poised for clean energy potential, but basic needs lacking

Chief Europe Correspondent
Source: International Energy Agency • Assessment based on data from the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA)

A lack of basic access to energy sources remains one of the main barriers to Africa’s industrial development, according to a report out this month from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

More than 640 million Africans don’t have access to energy, with the majority in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The immediate and absolute priority for Africa and the international community is to bring modern and affordable energy to all,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “It is morally unacceptable that the ongoing injustice of energy poverty in Africa isn’t being resolved when it is so clearly well within our means to do so.”

The report looked at the priorities of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the main vehicle for promoting cross-border projects on the continent. It has the buy-in of all African countries and is led by the secretariat of the African Union, its development agency and the African Development Bank.

There are 72 energy infrastructure projects on PIDA’s priority list. This represents 15% of all infrastructure projects, the rest dealing mostly with transport and telecommunications.

More than two-thirds of all PIDA energy projects are to increase electricity transmission capacity, mostly for interconnectors. Power generation projects are the second largest in number, of which all but one are hydropower.

The IEA said the global clean energy transition offers strong growth potential for Africa, with investments in solar, critical materials and green hydrogen set to flow toward the continent.

Africa is home to 60% of the best solar resources worldwide, but it currently holds only 1% of solar PV capacity, according to the report. It accounts for less than 3% of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions to date and has the lowest emissions per capita of any region.