East African nations should work to end poverty energy, majorly experienced in rural areas. They should also promote energy consumption, especially for industrial purposes, to spur rapid economic development.
Intensified energy production and consumption triggers proportionate economic development. These two generally walk together. Higher consumption leads to faster development, which in turn creates greater demand for energy, thus forming a virtuous cycle.
“As Africa’s population rapidly expands and urbanises, its need for reliable and sustainable energy supply will become greater than ever,” says Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA).
In her foreword to the Africa Energy Outlook 2019 report, she explains that this energy “is needed not only to drive the continent’s economic development but also to provide modern energy services to the large numbers of Africans currently living without them.”
“Growing urban populations mean rapid growth in energy demand for industrial production, cooling and mobility,” states the report.
It urges policy makers to address the persistent lack of access to electricity and clean cooking – and the unreliability of electricity supply. These have acted as brakes on the continent’s development. Nearly half of Africans (600 million people) lacked access to electricity in 2018, while about 80 per cent of sub-Saharan African firms suffered frequent electricity disruptions, leading to economic losses.
The continent’s ambition to accelerate an industrial expansion continues to be hampered in many countries by unreliable energy supply. Only a handful of countries – including South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Senegal – are expected to succeed in reaching full access to electricity by 2030.
Despite such progress, current and planned efforts to provide access to modern energy services barely outpace population growth. It is estimated that the global population without access to energy will become increasingly concentrated, and that 90 percent of populations without access to electricity and almost 50 percent without access to clean cooking in 2040, will be in Africa.
Initiatives such as the development of regional power system interconnection projects can make some difference in some parts of the region. This is important for most East African countries because they have smaller generation capacities to fit the economies of scale.
This explains the establishment of the East African Power Pool (EAPP) in 2005 to coordinate and harmonise electrical power generation and transmission among member countries.
The pool is supposed to facilitate provision of reliable, affordable and sustainable electrical energy for all in East Africa through coordinated actions.
The pool comprises Burundi, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Libya.
Generally though, sub-Saharan Africa needs to significantly scale-up electricity sector investment in generation and grids. Africa currently ranks among the lowest in the world. As it were, despite being home to 17 per cent of the world’s population, the continent currently accounts for a mere four per cent of global power supply investment.