Despite 15 years of sustained economic growth, the majority of Sub-Saharan Africa remains without electricity. In Nigeria alone, 92 million people have no light. As a consequence, the average citizen of Sub-Saharan Africa uses an annual per capita average of just 162kWh of electricity. The global average is 43 times that amount.
Despite widespread poverty, electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa is also expensive. Lack of connections, combined with inefficient grids, aging generation infrastructure, and stop-gap solutions contribute to electricity prices that are amongst the highest in the world. A woman living in a village in northern Nigeria, for example, spends around 60 to 80 times per unit more for her energy than a resident of New York City or London. Expensive and scarce energy has an economic cost, knocking off an estimated 2-4% of GDP growth per year throughout the region.
The development of new infrastructure to support Africa’s growth and development is an enormous opportunity. Africa’s electricity financing gap is estimated by the Internal Energy Agency (IEA) to be approximately $55 billion annually. To fill this gap, utilities and governments across the region are increasingly turning to private capital and independent power producers to generate electricity, creating vast opportunities for the development of power infrastructure.
Renewable energy is uniquely suited to address many of the challenges of Africa’s electrification. Project time lines are generally shorter and the decentralized nature of many renewable projects can bolster unstable grids and place energy sources closer to demand centres. Diversification of energy sources also strengthens grids and isolate countries from foreign exchange and energy supply prices.