Energy Access Key To Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa, Says IEA

Increasing access to modern forms of energy is crucial to unlocking faster economic and social development in Sub?Saharan Africa and despite its vast renewable energy resources the energy sector is placing a brake on development, the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) recently stated.

According to the IEA’s new Africa Energy Outlook Special Report, the region’s energy resources are more than sufficient to meet the needs of its population — including excellent and widespread solar and hydro potential as well as wind and geothermal — but that they are largely under-developed.

The report said that the use of solid biomass (mainly wood and charcoal) outweighs that of all other fuels combined and average electricity consumption per capita is not enough to power a single 50-watt light bulb continuously.

In the report’s central scenario, the sub-Saharan economy would quadruple in size by 2040 and energy demand would grow by around 80 percent. Power generation capacity would also quadruple with renewables growing strongly to account for nearly 45 percent of total sub-Saharan capacity, varying in scale from large hydropower dams to smaller mini- and off-grid solutions.

“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.

Meanwhile IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol observed that investing in the sector would result in a huge payoff, “with each additional dollar invested in the power sector boosting the overall economy by $15.”

Lead image: Africa map via Shutterstock

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David Appleyard is a contributing editor. Formerly Editor in Chief of Renewable Energy World and sister renewable energy magazines Wind Technology, Large Scale Solar and HRW - Hydro Review Worldwide, now a freelance journalist and photographer contributing to a wide range of on-line and print publications. David has some 20 years' experience of writing about the renewable energy sector and is based in Europe.

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