Africa must build partnerships to support growing energy demand, say experts and leaders

16 February 2016 - 14:35 By Penwell Dlamini

Africa has to start building partnerships between countries in implementing power generation projects which will meet the ever-growing demand for electricity in the continent.

An electricity pylon
An electricity pylon
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

This was the common call by energy experts and politicians who have gathered in the Africa Energy Indaba in Sandton to find better ways of bringing light to what used to be called the dark continent.

According to Elham Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim, the African Union Commissioner for infrastructure and energy said Africa's demand for electricity had been growing by 6% annually while generation capacity surged by just a percent, over the past 25 years.

Ibrahim said the continent currently had 140 gigawatts of power and at the rate of economic growth, would need 700 gigawatts by 2040.

She told delegates that the only way Africa could meet the high demand for electricity was to forge partnerships between countries in order to implement bigger power generation projects.

These projects, should also focus on utilising the renewable energy and maximizing the availability of natural resources such as gas, rivers, coal and solar, Ibrahim said.

One example of this was the Batoka Hydro Power Project between Zimbabwe and Zambia being implemented under the auspices of the Zambezi River Authority.

The US$5-billion project will produce 2400 megawatts which will be shared equally between the two countries. Construction is expected to begin in 2017.

“We see it as a positive project which will increase power generation capacity in the region. We have private investors who are coming to Zimbabwe, willing to fund power projects. But we have to strengthen our transmission lines,” said Samuel Undenge, Minister of Energy and Power Development in Zimbabwe.

Former Nedbank chair Reuel Khoza who is now chairperson of the Globeleq said there was a huge appetite from private sector investors to put money on renewable energy projects but funders needed certainty. Globeleq is a major player in independent power producing across sub-Saharan Africa.

“I want to have [regulatory] certainty when I come to invest. I must also be assured that whatever capital I put in there will be safe.”

Khoza commended the South African government for the work it has done to create an regulatory environment that would bring private sector into the power generation space.
“The regulatory environment is fine. The banks are very keen to make common cause. I just came from chairing one of them. We were by far the biggest funder of renewable energy. I think they will continue to do that. There is additional scope but all of this is done on a regulatory basis. What I can say to South Africa is the more opportunities they give us, the more we shall take them because we have the financial backing, we have the technical know how and the human resource both locally and internationally,” he said.