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Free

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

The global campaign to provide vulnerable and marginalised communities with sustainable and affordable energy has gained considerable momentum in the past decade. The Africa-EU Energy Partnership’s target of giving electricity access to 100m more Africans by 2020, set in 2010, was exceeded by mid-decade. The United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative should achieve its target of pulling 1bn people worldwide out of energy poverty by 2030; some 500m of these people live in sub-Saharan 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
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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
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Another year and thoughts turn to the potentials – be they 39GW, 44GW or 50GW – of the Congo River’s Inga hydroelectric resource, or of oil plays in the Albertine Graben, where Tullow Oil’s Ugandan field on the other side of the lacustrine border will come on stream this year

DR Congo
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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

The number of big multilateral financing facilities being put in place for electricity transmission and distribution (T&D) projects across Africa points to a recognition that, after decades when installing generation capacity was the central preoccupation of governments and donors, the infrastructure for delivering power to the people has often been ignored. Historically, large-scale T&D infrastructure has, of course, been put in place. But the momentum to modernise and expand grids has, in most jurisdictions, lagged in recent decades.

Free

The Skype line to a group of power developers in Nairobi is cut abruptly. When it returns, African Energy asks whether the interruption was caused by political turbulence; it surely can’t be due to generation shortfalls? (Kenya is building up a surplus of generation capacity). Of course not, chorus participants at the Nairobi end: it’s down to transmission and distribution (T&D) problems. Across sub-Saharan Africa, investment in transmission – including modern high-voltage lines – has lagged as planners and investors have focused on generation.

Kenya
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

South Africa has many problems, stemming from the enduring legacies of apartheid and the fallout of more recent misrule, but could it be load-shedding and the perpetual crisis at state utility Eskom that finally ends the African National Congress (ANC)’s control of the state?

South Africa