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There are signs of movement, at last, on bidding for flagship solar and other renewables projects, to be installed at either end of the continent. 

Morocco | South Africa
Free

Having emerged from its elections in May – the first since the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi, who dominated its politics in the last two decades – and with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front remaining intact amid some cautious generational change, Ethiopia’s leadership is determined to accelerate openings to investment and consolidate the country’s position as the political and economic dominant force in the Horn of Africa. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has surprised some observers by reinforcing his position at home, continuing the Meles legacy but in his own style; his government will continue to promote the ‘developmental state’ policies that have delivered 10%-plus annual growth in the last decade, to drive Ethiopia towards middle income status by 2025.

Ethiopia
Free

With all the talk about leapfrogging the grid, it is surprising how little the possible implications have filtered through to the debate about tariffs. The Africa Investment Exchange: Power and Renewables conference in London on 15-16 November saw a lively discussion about potential grid ‘disruptors’, in particular low-cost, small-scale renewable power sold directly to consumers. The technology has huge potential to provide clean power to households and industry at a fraction of the cost of the grid.

Free

Brave efforts are being made to continue with business as usual in the Sahel, despite an apparently never-ending security crisis, which has been further aggravated by a split in the western-backed G5 Sahel (G5S) alliance of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, as the military-led regime in Bamako seeks to distance itself from France and its allies.

Mauritania | Niger | Chad | Burkina Faso | Senegal | Mali
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Prizes and league tables should often be treated with great caution (as underlined by Nobel laureate Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s war in Tigray), but credit should be given when it is due and, in that context, Uganda’s fourth consecutive first place in the African Development Bank (AfDB)’s Electricity Regulatory Index should be acknowledged as a triumph for the rule of law and sound management.

Uganda
Free

It may be symbolic that, beyond the state-run grid, Tanzania provides an enticing opportunity for innovative investors to build businesses in marginalised communities with aspirations to move beyond energy poverty. Tanzania has been a pioneer in the sub-Saharan off-grid revolution, where mini-grid operator Jumeme and other innovators have been able to build their businesses. Germany’s Redavia last year began operating its first two mini-grids, supported by InfraCo Africa.

Tanzania
Free

African Union and European Union leaders met for the sixth EU-AU Summit in Brussels on 17-18 February, co-chaired by European Council president Charles Michel and AU’s Senegalese chairman President Macky Sall. It had been three years in the making – due to Covid and other delays – and, as with previous summits, there was talk of huge financial flows, boundless co-operation and commitments to a future of inclusive development.

Free

Thanks to a combination of high solar radiation and superlative wind resources, the massive, largely desert zone along north-west Africa’s Atlantic coast has become a focus for huge projects in what is starting to look like a new scramble for Africa. Recent developments include Chariot and Total Eren positioning themselves to take advantage of the emerging business opportunity in the production of green hydrogen in Morocco and Mauritania. This follows close on the footsteps of CWP Global and Xlinks. Others such as Harmattan Energy are looking at the disputed Western Sahara (under a UN mandate). As the number of prospective schemes grows, so too will the pressure to secure land rights and authorisations – a familiar issue for businesses with long track records in securing upstream and mineral rights across the continent.

Mauritania | Morocco | Western Sahara (under UN mandate)
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The African Development Bank (AfDB) announced on 29 June that South Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance (MoEF) and the Export-Import Bank of Korea had signed an agreement to provide $600m to co-finance energy projects in Africa. It adds to the glut of funds targeting the African power sector, but oversupply of donor money – or undersupply of projects – is driving interest rates down and causing concern amongst financiers.

Free

Find ways to store the electricity generated from solar, wind and other renewables, and these technologies may cease to be ‘intermittent’ sources of power – a game-changer that is expected to transform Africa’s electricity supply industry in the next decade or two. “Storage will make a lot of difference to the shape of the grid,” observed Gravitricity managing director and co-founder Charlie Blair, predicting that networks will emerge “without big spines and instead more of a nodal system”.

Free

Senegal is a relatively small economy with a reputation for competent, if sometimes flawed, governance of its limited resources. The prospect of an administration with a taste for joined-up government tapping recently identified offshore gas resources, and attracting investment in its abundant solar and wind resources, suggests that President Macky Sall’s Plan Sénégal Emergent strategy to achieve emerging market status by 2035 is not overblown.

Senegal
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The incomplete and low-key bulletin announcing the selection of 17 new power plants for South Africa’s renewable energy independent power producer procurement (REIPPP) programme on 29 October demonstrated not only the government’s shifting energy focus, but also conflicts underlying the process itself. Recently appointed minister Dikobe Ben Martins comes with a reputation for implementation, and there is no doubt that the energy sector needs it. With delays at all three of Eskom’s new power plants – which are shut down for a safety inspection following the deaths of six contract workers at Ingula pumped storage plant – and nuclear, gas and cogeneration plans that are behind schedule, Martins’ efforts are likely to be directed away from the REIPPP in the short term.

South Africa
Free

US President Barack Obama was expected to make headline-grabbing announcements on the Tanzanian phase of his first extended trip to Africa, which started on 26 June. Of more long-term consequence is the great debate that rumbles on over how Tanzania should use its offshore reserves, now estimated at 150tcf of natural gas. International oil companies (IOCs), other potential investors and their advisers are expressing great frustration at the slow pace of decision-making, while Tanzanian policymakers say more time is needed to make momentous decisions for the economy and society.

Tanzania
Free

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s in-tray would terrify almost any political leader. He will watch the US election results with special interest after President Donald Trump signalled his frustration over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam by observing that Egypt would “end up blowing up the dam and… they have to do something”. Trump blamed Ethiopia for failed negotiations chaired by the United States earlier this year.

Ethiopia | Eritrea
Free

Politics runs through even the most technical questions in a Republic of South Africa (RSA) ruled for nearly three decades by the African National Congress (ANC). Power struggles and influence-broking within the party have a direct impact on the implementation of policy. Along with data and project updates, African Energy’s new 160-page South Africa Power Report 2021/22 highlights the need for President Cyril Ramaphosa to implement reforms to the electricity supply industry (ESI) and other key sectors, in the face of opposition from deeply-rooted ideological and factional rivals.

South Africa