There is no funny, witty or interesting way to bring this to your knowledge. Because it is pretty much a sad story.
If you didn’t know, Africa is not a country and there are indeed 54 distinct countries in the continent.
But that is beside the point. Why is Africa dark?… and no, I am not referring to any dark arts, flying witches or witchcraft. We all know those do (not) exist.
Neither am I referring to the predominantly dark skin found on the continent (Melanin goodness!).
I’m referring to the state of electricity on the continent. I know you’re tempted to close the page at this point. But please read on.
I’m a Lawyer currently working in the Energy team, and I’ve learnt a whole lot so far. So I thought I’d share and see if you geniuses had any solutions to this unwarranted darkness.
600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are without electricity. I don’t mean without 24-hour electricity… I mean no electricity at all! But how can this even be guys? It’s been 137 years since the light bulb was invented. Pause. Go back. Read that again. Done? Yes. A whole one hundred and thirty-seven years.
The total installed electricity capacity in Sub Sahara Africa is 68GW. Let’s break it down a tad bit. Every electricity produced is measurable in megawatts(MW), so whatever the source of electricity: coal, solar, wind, biomass, nuclear – the output is measurable. Now 68GW is equal to the installed capacity in Spain. Spain has a population of 46.77 million and Sub Saharan Africa has a population of 973.4 million.
South Africa generates 45% of Africa’s electricity. Seriously what are most other countries doing? People are trying to find life on Mars and we still battle electricity issues?
Oh and one more thing. In a lot of the African countries, the entire system was monopolised. Let’s consider the now-defunct National Electric Power Station (NEPA) of Nigeria. NEPA was owned by the Government. NEPA owned all of the generating stations. i.e. the coal plants and the water dams used in generating electricity. NEPA owned the transmission lines used to transport the generated electricity to the grid, NEPA also eventually distributed the electricity to the consumers, and we paid NEPA for the electricity. Talk about Monopoly and possible inefficiencies.
No need to state the other bad news. You know this. Corruption, No skilled workers, Political Instability. All of these seemingly discourage investors from the continent.
It’s pretty saddening being in a meeting with an investor who after hearing you are Nigerian says ‘Oh we’ve taken the decision as a company not to invest in that country. Too dirty and difficult to do business there’.
Your girl put on a brave face, but inside she’s pretty hurt and thinking ‘WTH is wrong with our leaders?’
It’s not all bad news. There’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Literally.
The potential in Africa is humongous.
Like the continent is hot! Do you realise how much solar we could generate if we meaningfully use all that sunshine? If European countries with pretty much non-existent sunshine can generate solar electricity, what’s our excuse? How much wind we’ve got?
And more good news. The monopoly situation in many countries is being unbundled. So in Nigeria, different entities now manage generation, transmission and distribution.
Yet more! There’s been some massive investment in Africa energy-wise. Consider the below true-life story.
Dutch fisherman is randomly having a drink with Dutch Investor.
Dutch Fisherman: Geez, I can’t catch anything in that river. The wind is crazy. Never ever seen that kind of wind before.
Dutch Investor: Really? It’s that bad. Like there’s that much wind?
Dutch investor goes ahead to do some more research. And alas. That region has one of the fastest wind speeds in the world. A wind energy plant (Lake Turkana Plant) is now being built in Kenya and it appears Google has now invested in the project. I think I need to hit the pubs more often. Might meet some potential investors for my blog. Haha.
Morocco is also doing amazing stuff! They are set to have the largest solar plant in the world, capable of generating 2000MW of electricity. They’re basically utilising the sunshine in the desert and building solar panels.
Most other nations still use coal as a source of energy. Yes, it’s not the cleanliest source of electricity and there’s all that climate change talk. But we don’t mind. Let’s just have electricity first…Then we can go on to ‘clean’ electricity. Not like we contributed to the Climate Change. Nah, we ain’t that industrialised.
Any thoughts on this guys? Any quick fixes and genius solutions?
'DemolaFebruary 25, 2016 at 13:15
Quick fixes? Stop over-regulating everything, perhaps? Funny Fashola is Minister in charge of that sector. He always emphasized the need to respect contracts to build investor confidence. You agree with Nigerian Electricity REGULATORY Commission on new tariffs and the Senate thinks it’s their jobs to regulate the regulator because the prices are ‘ultra wicked”. Same way they are trying to regulate “exploitative” pricing for a private company(DSTV’s) used by less than 1% of the country. Same problems in Rice, Auto, Cement. Everything. Let’s not even talk about currency. Emotional regulation breeds corruption, creates opportunities for arbitrage. I don’t expect any rational investor to invest in power if the Senate can cancel contracts because it is ‘ultra-wicked”, and when monetary policy changes every single day, and you lose 50% of your investment on currency one week after you move in. Stop ranting, ‘Demola.
Nneka AgbimFebruary 27, 2016 at 11:18
See my Energy Lawyer spilling some energy juice!!!!! MF would be proud!!!!!
Kachee || KacheeTee.comFebruary 28, 2016 at 19:06
You know this!! Xx
KIKELOMO OMOTALADEFebruary 29, 2016 at 11:50
The mind needs to be prepared when visiting the country…….ndo……things will get better……….wait till rainy season before visiting cuz this weather is really helping boli sellers as they don’t need charcoal anymore to roast their plantains…….lol……………….the power situation has improved in some areas though……….btw this post needs to get to Fashola’s office……..xx….Xx
godwin LloydApril 6, 2016 at 06:17
Hi, it’s so true that we can’t fix the corruption in one day, but until we get some major parts of the leadership right, sad truth is we can’t go further… I’ve sadly talked to investors on different sectors and when they get involved, execution becomes a pain in the neck, you have to lobby almost everybody to get things approved, spending the money already budgeted for these projects… And the annoyingly sad part is these are things that would help everyone… The investors don’t care about these, when they see their money is being wasted, they back out and you can’t really blame them… I love my country so much, but it’s a struggle to be Nigerian on some days…
Kachee || KacheeTee.comApril 7, 2016 at 14:13
I agree with you 100%. Investors are willing to invest, but the climate is not conducive at all. So much lobbying and ‘bribing’ for even the most simple things. Nigeria is such an amazing place, if only we can get leadership and infrastructure right.
Philip AmiolaMay 12, 2016 at 08:15
Thanks for this brilliant piece, Kachee. I’ve been thinking along these lines too. It’s good to see that there’s a bright side to the “dark story”.Are you aware of the partnership between Lumos and MTN to make clean electricity affordable in Nigeria?
Kachee || KacheeTee.comMay 13, 2016 at 09:58
Hi Philip!Thanks so much for this comment. There is indeed a bright side and we hope we see it real soon! I wasn’t aware of the partnership. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I’ve researched it briefly and it looks like a really good initiative especially as solar energy is being used!. Hopefully we’ll see more like this.
AbbyAugust 16, 2016 at 22:16
I currently work in the Power sectorand the level of decay is terribly mind boggling.For quick fixes the Discos need to ensure all consumers get meters installed(of course with no by passing but then again its Nigeria, even the officials will help you bypass your meter for a kickback.smh)It takes years to build a generation plant, the transmission grid needs to be expanded as well.The solution isnt exactly rocket science if only the concerned parties will do the right thing.
Kachee || KacheeTee.comAugust 16, 2016 at 22:22
You do? We should talk!Definitely the grid needs to be expanded and like you said all this isn’t so much rocket science – we just need to step up! Thank you so much for this comment. Hopefully we’ll get there eventually!
AbbyAugust 16, 2016 at 23:53
Yes I do! Sure i can share the bits I know, ready when you are 🙂