Unless African leaders step up to the plate and tackle the continent’s energy needs through lateral thinking and solid leadership, there’s little hope that the “dark continent” will see the light anytime soon.
Business leader Reuel Khoza on Tuesday told delegates at the ministerial session of the Africa Energy Indaba that, the “absence of compelling continental leadership” in terms of energy integration will leave Africa “in the dark.”
“With energy you can illuminate what has been called the Dark Continent. For as long as Africa does not show leadership, we will remain in the dark,” said Khoza.
As chairperson of independent power producer Globeleq — and former Chairperson of Eskom and Nedbank –, Khosa said that Africa needs a ‘continental strategy around energy integration’, adding that Africa is fragmented and “must find ways to address integration.”
The Africa Energy Indaba comes at a time when much of Sub-Saharan Africa faces major energy challenges magnified by, among others:
- Regional drought leading to a drop in the Kariba Dam’s water levels.
- Delays in new builds like Grand Inga hydro in the DRC and
- Medupi and Kusile in South Africa.
- A general lack of transmission infrastructure regionally.
The panel put a specific focus on attracting private sector investment in order to meet the continent’s energy needs and acknowledged that economic growth is directly proportionate to energy supply.
In Sub-Sahara alone, more than 620 million people are without any access to electricity and that number is set to hit the 645 million mark by 2030, according to Wolsey Barnard, the deputy director general of the department of energy.
“It requires $225bn to catch up in infrastructure development just for access to electricity and not including generation,” said Barnard.
“We need to move away from a single source of power generation. We need to go broad-based, with a mixed use of energy,” he said.
“Countries need to have flexibility in policies and legislation regarding electricity management to open up private investment, because governments don’t have funding.”
“Energy infrastructure is a critical building block to unlocking Africa’s energy potential… We have to open up options for private investments, as there are huge opportunities.”
Zambia’s energy and water development minister, Dora Siliya, echoed Barnard’s sentiments that the private sector is key in meeting the continent’s energy needs.
“We need to provide clear policy and regulation directions with easy processes to follow. Feasibility studies need to be done as quickly as possible to develop regional infrastructure.”