Despite the many advances in the electrification of Africa, much of the continent has yet to be connected to the grid or have access to reliable and affordable power supplies. According to World Bank figures, Africa’s electrification rate is just 42%.
Africa’s power problems
But this average hides marked regional disparities. For example, North Africa provides 99% of its population with grid electricity while in sub-Sahara the figure is just 31%. There is also an urban rural disparity. While 69% of urban dwellers have access to electricity, just 25% of rural dwellers are grid connected and this falls to less than 10% in sub-Sahara.
Moreover, electricity is expensive and unreliable. An African Development Bank study found that it cost Africa’s grid-connected customers on average US $ 13 cents for a kilowatt hour (kWh) or almost as much as in France, whose much wealthier consumers pay 14 cents/kWh. The cost of electricity from a portable generator is higher still at 30 cents/KWh rising to 70 cents/KWh for the use of a photovoltaic kit.
Closing this power deficit with reliable and affordable electricity is vital for Africa’s prosperity. Demand for power is rising fast owing to population growth, increasing urbanization and economic development.
What it would cost
To build a comprehensive power network for all 53 countries by 2030 would cost $547 billion or an average $27 billion a year according to the African Development Bank. Yet, Africa’s total investment in power averages just $1-2 billion a year. This is far too little to meet current, let alone, future demand.