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Half Of Sub-Saharan Africa Is In The Dark

By:Nghiinomenwa-vali Erastus
An assessment by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s economists indicated that about half of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa does not have access to electricity.
Those with electricity pay on average nearly twice as much as consumers elsewhere in the world. Power shortages cost the continent about 2-4% of GDP a year, wrote economists Gregor Schwerhoff and Mouhamadou Syin the IMF’s Finance Magazine for December 2022.
The situation is also expected to get worse as the African population is expected to hit 2 billion by 2050.
As for Namibia, it has about 300 000 un-electrified households, while by 2022 the national electrification rate stood at about 50%, and rural electrification at about 20%.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has however found that Namibia has an access rate below 50% which it considers to be slow.
An analysis by the Electricity Control Board (ECB) in November last year indicates that at the current level/rate of electrification, by 2040 only 40 000 – 80 000 new connections will be met versus the target of 600 000 connections.
The ECB stated that for the country to achieve the target, “we need about 30,000 new connections (10 times what we are doing now)”.
Of the 600 000 new connections, 450 000 will have to be grid-based, and 150 000 off-grid.
Electrification in recent years has been done by the mines and energy ministry, NamPower and, to a lesser extent, by investments made by distributors
While half of Sub-Saharan Africa is in the dark, the World Bank and IMF economists and other domestic analysts indicated that Africa is home to 60% of the world’s best solar resources, but has just 1% of installed capacity.
Current investments are less than 15% of the investments required to achieve full access to electricity, the two economists assessment revealed.
The global lenders’ researchers indicated that the goal of universal access to modern energy calls for investments of US$25 billion per year.
Another alternative to electrification due to the vastness of countries like Namibia are mini-grades.
According to the IMF experts, mini-grids are seen as inferior to main grid electrification and a secondary political priority, while they are actually a high quality of reliable electricity and almost 24/7 uptime, often as the least cost option. The mini-grids do not compete with the main grid as they can interconnect with the grid.
The IMF researchers indicated that there is a need for over 140 000 mini-grids in Africa by 2030 to achieve SDG 7 but in 2020 the average regulatory approval time across the continent for one mini-grid is over a year.
Given that the population in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow from 1 billion in 2018 to more than 2 billion in 2050, the demand for electricity is projected to expand by 3% a year, the IMF economists wrote.
They warned that meeting that demand with current energy sources would have severe consequences for health and the environment.
The current energy mix in Africa is based mostly on burning coal, oil and traditional biomass (wood, charcoal, dry dung fuel).
While this energy mix is comparatively cheap, it is insufficient to meet current needs, and negative effects on the environment are left unaddressed, the IMF experts wrote.
They suggested using modern biomass, cultivating high-energy plants, and using crop residue to produce synthetic fuels, as well as carbon capture and storage (CCS), which involves storing carbon dioxide emissions underground.
The economists added that to avoid large-scale reliance on unsustainable technology, Africa will need to move toward an economically and environmentally sound energy mix.
This will require addressing the financial challenges of installing renewable energy capacity while seizing opportunities provided by falling prices and technological progress. Email:

Nghiinomenwa-vali Erastus

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