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Renewable energy investment key to sub-Saharan Africa’s prosperity



A woefully under-developed energy sector is holding back growth in sub-Saharan Africa, but smart investment could unlock the region’s huge renewable energy potential, according to a new report.

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The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) new Africa Energy Outlook reports that more than 620 million sub-Saharan Africans live without electricity, while average electricity consumption per capita is too low to keep a single 50-watt light bulb continuously lit.

However, the IEA calculates that the region’s potential energy resources could meet the needs of the entire population, with sufficient investment. 

With widespread solar, wind and hydro potential and accounting for almost 30% of all discoveries of oil and gas over the last five years, sub-Saharan Africa is bestowed with energy resources. 

Investing an additional $450 billion (£280.2bn) in exploiting these resources could halve blackouts and power homes across all urban areas, the report estimates. By 2040, renewable energy could provide almost 45% of sub-Saharan Africa, it says, while almost one billion Africans will gain access to the grid.

“A better functioning energy sector is vital to ensuring that the citizens of sub-Saharan Africa can fulfill their aspirations,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven.

“The energy sector is acting as a brake on development, but this can be overcome and the benefits of success are huge.” 

Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist added, “With each additional dollar invested in the power sector boosting the overall economy by $15 (£9.34).

The report notes that while investment into the continent is increasing, much of the finance is developing resources for exports. To cut energy poverty, more investment is needed for domestic projects, the IEA said.

Further reading:

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IEA: $48tn energy investment needed to meet demand by 2035

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UN: climate change investment could secure Africa’s development