Africa, The Blackout Continent
Despite the efforts of the international community and the fact that Energy has been for the past years one of the main areas of the fight for economic development, the overall situation of Africa has gotten worse, mainly due to a population growth which has outpaced the slightly increasing electrification rates. In fact, still only 29% of the population has access to electricity today, the population without access jumping by 35 million from 2002 to 2008.
This increase is mainly due to Sub-Saharan Africa since North Africa, with large rural electrification programs like in Morocco, has reached during the past decade a level close to full electrification in both rural (98.2%) and urban (99.6%) areas. In total, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 99.6% of the unelectrified population in Africa, underlining the great disparities between both African regions.
These facts lead to two basic conclusions: first, the development goals are all linked with each other and access to modern energy is probably the most horizontal development issue of all. Secondly, these numbers show that without strong political commitments and the implementation of sustainable supporting frameworks, the electrification rate will never catch up with the population growth and the unelectrified population in the poorest regions of the world will keep increasing.
This trend is unacceptable. As the IEA figures prove developing countries can change course and can improve the situation within a reasonable period of time. Against this background ARE calls for national electrification targets of 2.5 % above the population growth" (ARE recommendations on the World Bank Energy Strategy Approach). With this target, in 2025, 67.3% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa would have access to modern energy, requiring the electrification of more than 350 million people over the next 15 years.
Sub-Saharan Africa, despite its numerous natural advantages (extremely favorable sun and wind conditions, big hydro potential and important sustainable biomass potential) and its dramatic needs, is not part of the global upswing of renewable energy.. However, the international concern, ever more favourable technology prices and the increased awareness of governments could, in the medium term, transform the continent into the next market with 2 digit growth. The off-grid renewable energy sector has been already stepping a foot in this market for a long time but is still far from reaching its potential.
Northern Africa present very interesting solar resources and well as an important wind potential in several places. In this region the off-grid potential is still quite important and rather well exploited. Recently, large renewable energy projects are increasingly realized.
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