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Saturday, September 19, 2020

148 million West Africans lack access to electricity – AfDB

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The report stated that access to electricity in the region is extremely low when compared to other developing communities globally, with 57 percent of its population unable to enjoy any decent energy supply.

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Promise may not translate into progress

With so much promise shown by the growth of the region, lack of adequate electricity may hamper growth if not addresses as a matter of urgency. “The mismatch between the increasing demand for energy and the limited power generation and transmission is a clear limit to the region exploiting its full potentials,” the report says.

The electricity demand/supply gap in West Africa is greater than 40 percent and it needs to be urgently addressed. West African economies may be growing, but energy deficiency may hinder the country from achieving its full potential.

Resources abundance to lure further investments

West Africa is rich in energy resources, with large hydropower energy potentials, strong winds that could allow for wind energy deployment, intense solar radiation and large reserves of oil and gas estimated at 60 billion barrels – up to 60 percent of the continent’s reserves. But most of citizens do not enjoy stable and affordable electricity. This gap presents a huge opportunity for investors.

“Using such sources would help to expand access while reducing reliance on traditional biomass, increase reliability and affordability, and contribute to climate change mitigation,” the AfDB report said.

The report revealed that hydropower in West Africa has an estimated potential of 25,000 megawatts, yet only 16 percent has been exploited and despite Africa’s wealth in waterways, it only holds 214 dams out of the 1,282 total in Africa.

Several in-country lakes and dams hold promise for renewable energy development, the report stressed. Volta River was identified in the report as holding great potential for Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Togo, while Lake Chad could be used to serve Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad.

Solar power projects are rapidly popping up across West Africa, including the 155 MW Nzema solar power plants in Ghana, one of the largest in Africa. However, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Guinea ha potential for hydropower, while Mali and Niger had for solar energy, and Cape Verde, Gambia and Senegal for wind resources.

Investors sure would have noticed the region’s potentials and will be gearing up to pounce on opportunities as they present themselves, providing it eliminates its major drawback; poor governance.

 

Way forward

West Africa should pay attention to renewable energy, the AfDB report says. It has the capacity to generate 50 percent of the region’s electricity by 2030. Apart from sustainability, getting energy from renewable sources could enhance West Africa ability to access to reliable power.

While the emerging region continues its strive towards revamping an ailing energy sector, it is also important to dismantle barriers to investment, allowing for a more transparent, regulated and competitive market.

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