Turning the tide in Africa’s energy sector
By Farouk Benabdoun
Achieving energy sustainability is not straightforward in Africa. In many of its countries, it faces security challenges and political instability arising from coup plots, intra-state conflicts, and terrorism. This political instability stands in the way of the continent’s development and poses a serious threat to its future.
While officials at climate conferences around the world talk about energy transition, generating hundreds of gigawatts from clean energy sources, switching from fossil fuels to renewables, millions of people in Africa still lack access to basic energy services.
Africa is home to about 600 million people without access to electricity, and even more people without access to clean cooking. The majority of women in rural communities rely on firewood for cooking and kerosene-powered lamps for lighting. This lack of access to quality and reliable supply of electricity has been a major hurdle to industrializing the continent.
The ironic part is that Africa has an abundance of natural resources that could make it a leader in the energy transition, but its political and security instability stands in the way, blocking investment and freezing progress.
African leaders must prioritize the welfare of their citizens, and their needs for reliable and sustainable power, over political gains in order to achieve sustainable development and clean energy access for all.
Putting the People First
Executing big-ticket energy projects in the region requires, not only adaptable technologies but security of lives and property. Political instability and insecurity will compound the risk profiles of the large projects, which the continent desperately needs, and make them less financially viable, resulting in the loss of investment. It is in the best interest of the people of Africa that inter and intra-socio-political conflicts are tackled in a timely manner.
It’s not impossible and it has happened before. Political instability in Egypt in 2010 led to a decline in investment in the energy sector and resulted in unreliable energy supply and frequent blackouts. Four years later, Egypt’s leadership made it a priority to address the country's energy crisis and took a number of steps to increase energy production by investing in new gas fields, tapping into the country’s natural wind and solar potential to expand renewable energy sources, as well as partner with experts to improve energy efficiency in its power plants.
As a result of these efforts, Egypt has become a powerhouse with stable grid electricity supply and a net exporter of energy. The Egyptian government collaborated with Siemens Energy, and successfully executed 14.4GW power projects within 27 months and fully integrated it into the grid. This turnaround is a success story that demonstrates how political will and decisive action can be used to overcome a major challenge. The country's experience can be a model for other African countries that are struggling with energy insecurity.
Breaking the Resource Curse
Africa is a continent with vast natural resources, including arable land, oil, natural gas, gold, chromium, platinum, cobalt, diamonds, uranium, iron ores, and lithium. These resources have the potential to transform its economy and create jobs for its growing population. However, for too long, Africa has been struggling with a "resource curse." The continent's natural resources have been extracted and sold at low prices, while the value-added stages of production have taken place elsewhere. This has resulted in a loss of jobs and economic opportunities for Africans.
The energy transition presents an opportunity for Africa to break the resource curse. The continent has the potential to become a major producer of lithium batteries, which are essential for electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, and the demand for lithium batteries is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.
In order to seize this opportunity, leaders in the African continent must put their differences aside and work together. They can find partners with the experience in order to help them achieve mutual goals. Siemens Energy is a trusted partner in Africa with long years of regional experience and adaptable technology for the region’s needs.
Collaboration is Key
Siemens Energy is collaborating with the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Presidential Power Initiative to resolve grid network challenges and improve supply of electricity to Nigerians from what the country currently distributes from 3GW to 25GW of electricity. At the same time, Siemens Energy is proud to be working with the Nigerian National Climate Change Council on the implementation of the Energy Transition Plan, which will help Nigeria realize its net zero target by 2050.
In Namibia and South Africa appear to be leading the chart in hydrogen and renewable energy conversations and Siemens Energy is proud to be collaborating with these Countries with the aim of implementing large scale hydrogen production projects that will support the region’s demands.
With the right collaborations and partnerships Africa can position itself as a leader in the energy transition and a manufacturer of renewable energy products by investing in the development of its mining and manufacturing industries. This would create jobs, boost economic growth, and help to reduce Africa's dependence on fossil fuels.
I hope that African leaders can learn from Egypt’s energy turnaround and resolve their political and security challenges in order to allow the investments to flow into Africa, allowing us to turn the tide from economic and energy poverty to prosperity.
Presidential Power Initiative Nigeria
Siemens Energy supports Nigeria in raising electricity capacity to 25 GW