Core issue of Africa’s energy sector: lack of major industrial consumers
Development problems existing in Africa’s energy complex are related to the lack of major industrial energy consumers and an economically and infrastructurally underdeveloped agricultural sector, said Abel Didier Tella, CEO of the Association of Power Utilities of Africa, in an interview with the Global Energy Association.

The key is to align the needs of the energy sector with the needs of the industry. The presence of major buyers provides investments and covers development costs. If you only produce electricity for daily needs, it’s impossible to cover the project costs. Nobody will provide funding for a project like that, because it is not oriented towards the right buyer,” he said.

Dr. Tella noted that experts have fruitless discussions regarding the issues of population growth, weak economic development and energy deficit every year, yet new solutions are yet to emerge.

We will keep hearing everyone say for another ten years or so that 100 million people have no access to energy. This is happening because of population growth and economic development. If we want to break this cycle, we need to focus on industrial development. We need to figure out how to transform the reserves of raw materials that exist on this continent in order to increase the use of energy, specifically its use by industrial enterprises, which will be major energy buyers,” the expert stressed.

Equally important is the issue of providing wider access to electricity in agricultural areas. “The issue of universal access to electricity in Africa is two-sided. If we take cities, all is well there: on average, more than 70% of urban population has access to energy. In rural areas, this indicator hovers below 20%, i.e., the average value stands at approximately 45–50%,” Dr. Tella said.

Rural areas require special attention. They are not resilient at the moment. Oftentimes, agricultural producers don’t even have any roads to bring their produce to the cities where the consumers reside. This is why the African Union’s program envisages the development of communications, roads, energy and water supply, as well as information and communication technologies. And this is the way to go!” he added.

However, the issue of universal access to electricity ought to be resolved with the use of state-of-the-art technologies, because the energy complex will lag further behind otherwise.

“Over the next 3–5 years, we will have two paths before us: some countries will work to provide universal access to energy while others will strive to create a more intelligent energy sector. These two strategies go hand in hand. In the past, people wanted to have energy and paid to mind as to how to use it more efficiently. Today, if we have energy, we must use it efficiently in line with intelligent technologies, in order to do as much as possible by using what is at hand,” Dr. Tella stressed.


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March 2023