Concerns for the future of energy in Africa

• Sources of energy are unevenly distributed across the continent and as a result are  underexploited, leading to a major portion of the biomass available to be used as energy.

• With wood as the main source of energy or fuel for a significant percent of the African population, biomass burning will have a large, significant and negative effect on the environment, on the impacts of climate change and unfortunately the African people.

• In the world of of oil & gas, there are several challenges faced and limitations that have been brought upon. The continent has limited refining capability, specifically, Africa represented only 4.1% of the world’s refining capacity in 2007, despite the significant amount of oil & gas reserves that we have available. This is a result of several issues in the industry that include but are not limited to, corruption, inadequate maintenance, theft and problems within operations. However, there is some good news, the refining capacity is currently expanding in countries like Algeria, Nigeria and others with the development of new projects that will lead to long-term growth in the sector. Hopefully this will lead to a stable balance within the crude and refined production in African oil & gas.

Subsidies for trade also present problems, in some nations these breaks provide producers to sell to international buyers rather than locals, this harms the local oil and gas economies.

The hydrocarbon economy of some of the African nations are not linked to other economic sectors, this lack of diversification poses a threat to the progress of growth of social and energy sectors. The dependence on a singular or primary resource is dangerous, affecting employment the proper distribution of clean and sustainable basic social amenities such as water, electricity and of course, energy.

• So what about alternative energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and even nuclear? There is no doubt there is large potential, especially with solar, as Africa is the hottest continent on the planet. However, proper legislation in partner with appropriate financial incentives and backed with scientiific innovation will make room for the successful application of non-biomass based energy resources in Africa.

Les Editions du Jaguar of the Africa Atlas published in 2011.

Oil and Gas in Africa: Africa’s Reserves, Potential and Prospects by KPMG Africa

Alternative Energy in Africa (Part 2)

Is Africa affected by climate change?

Before the question in the title of this post is answered, for the skeptics out there, I have to answer it before I begin my commentary.

So what exactly is climate change? It can be defined as change(s) within the climate system that occur due to natural processes (such as volcanic eruptions) and or anthropogenic happenings (such as carbon emissions).  This is different from the popular used term, “global warming” which references the increase of regional or global surface temperatures as a result of human induced processes.

Therefore, it can be said that climate change is indeed real and happening, whether due to solar and earth variation or the burning of fossil fuels. However, climate change prompted by natural factors is evident over an evolutionary time scale, so basically over a very long, long, long time.  The changes in climate  experienced in several parts of the world since the introduction of fossil fuel burning during the Industrial Revolution, occurred on a much smaller time scale. As a result, this lead to the (mostly) general consensus that the emission of greenhouse gases are largely responsible for the average increase of global surface temperatures and the other effects of climate warming.

Now that majority of the world’s climate scientists (about 97%) have determined that conclusion, it should make sense that industrialized nations, which are typically larger contributors of global greenhouse gas emissions, would be the most affected.

Retrieved from
This image was retrieved from

However, climate vulnerability, the degree to which societies are highly susceptible to or incapable of coping with the hostile impacts of climate change, reveals that Africa, although a minor contributor to global carbon emissions will be heavily impacted by climate change. More specifically, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average increase of surface temperatures by 1.5 to 3.0 degrees celsius on the continent will lead to sea-level rise, reduction in agricultural productivity, water scarcity, extreme weather events, and rising energy demands.
For more details about the potential impacts, you can access the fact sheet compiled by the AMCEN secretariat, Climate Change in Africa FACT SHEET .

This image was retrieved from
This image was retrieved from

These impacts are based on the high vulnerability of the continent, due to the geographical location of Africa, the lack of adaptive capacity and relevant development. (IPCC). Changes in the form of implementation of sustainable practices, mitigation and adaptive strategies would need to be made to avoid the social, economical and environmental consequences.

Interestingly, a 2014 satellite image of average global carbon concentrations shows that increasing biomass burnings have raised the continent’s level of carbon emissions. The image also shows that Africa’s carbon concentrations are on the higher end of the scale in comparison to developed nations such as the U.S and parts of Europe, which in past years had significantly higher concentrations. This can be seen in the figure below.

This image was retrieved from
This image was retrieved from

This is an issue that should be of extreme priority, and in the area of energy development, investment of low-carbon and sustainable technologies (such as solar, wind, geothermal, etc) are strongly encouraged, in collaboration with adaptive policies to keep Africa a minimal contributor of global carbon emissions and to ensure the survival of African communities that are highly vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.

I have attached a short Powerpoint I presented for my global change class in which this post was based on, titled Climate Change: A First World Problem? I briefly discussed the potential impacts of climate change on the continent. Climate Change – A First World Problem


Climate Change: Evidence and Causes, Report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the UK Royal Society, available at Climate Change: Evidence and Causes Report .

My Global Change Research paper on the impacts of climate change on the African continent.

Low oil prices effect on energy in Africa

As we know of recent, the price of oil per barrel drastically dropped from over $100 to about less than $50 a couple of months ago. What does this mean? In developed countries like the United States, gas (petroleum) prices at gas stations are lower, which is at an advantage to the consumers. However it also signifies a shift in the oil and gas employment market. Unfortunately, thousands of employees in the industry have lost their positions, due to the fact that a number of the companies can no longer afford their workers as a result of the wide loss margin they are experiencing. So what does this mean for the oil rich countries in the African continent? There is an obvious shift in the local and international market place. Some countries have experienced a reduction in their trade orders. This can present serious financial issues in some African nations, especially those that lack a diversified energy economy and are oil and gas dependent.

Hopefully, this change and perturbation in the global energy market, can help spark conversations about diversifying local and national energy economies in the African continent. The investment and implementation of conventional and alternative energy projects catered specifically around regional environments of interest, are strongly needed for economic growth and stability in the African energy sector to avoid the negative effects provided by unpredictable changes in the global markets.

Power Africa Conference: Tanzania – energy reform

My commentary is based on information about the Power Africa Tanzania event, held in Dar Es Salaam a month ago, from Energy Net Ltd. The links to information about the event, the speakers and details about plans for Tanzania’s road to energy reform are displayed below.

I was delighted to see that a conference like this was taking place. Often times we hear about the large multi-national conferences, usually aimed at tackling more than one specific area of development. I think single themed conferences such as this one are significantly important.

The purpose of the event was aimed at  fixing Tanzania’s lack of reliable energy problem, which often deters possible business transactions in the nation. The plan for the energy reform is a call for strategy that involves investment funding where majority of it will be allocated for power generation. The investments will not only be used to create and promote new power projects but also, implement a task force that will enforce the progress of the energy roadmap, a management team that will manage the reform process, the assurance of an easy transition for old contractors when their contracts have expired and the

It is vital to understand the mutual relationship between development and business. It presents the balance between ideal and reality. The example of Tanzania’s call for energy reform highlights this quite well. These include;

– isolating a specific problem and designing a strategy or solution that is aimed to fix it.

– the solution itself is then broken down in several ways to be applied to the different aspects of the problem.

– allocating a specific known amount for the budget of the solution, this part of the balance is one of the most important because it makes the strategy realistic.

Events such as these are vital to the drive for developmental progress in African nations. Mainly because they provide a forum where a problem can be dissected into various parts that can be appropriately dealt with, because the most important aspect of a solution is how it can be perfected in a variety of roles. This provides the opportunity to developing higher quality solutions and strategies to our developmental issues.

Opinion: low cost, high capacity

The first time I heard the phrase, low cost, high capacity, was at a town hall meeting at my place of work. The term is used to refer to projects that involve improving and or increasing the working dimensions of a manufacturing vessel(s), as opposed to investing to replace the vessel(s) entirely, thereby reducing the cost. I found this concept interesting and wondered if this philosophy can be applied in energy development in Africa.

Often times, it is expressed that large budget energy projects are needed to help bring energy development to the continent. Now I do not disagree with that, but what about small-scale projects? Projects that are aimed to bring sustainable development to a community as opposed to a large group of communities. The large scale projects can be designed to meet energy demands of the highly-populated areas, and the small-scale projects can be used perhaps to supply the energy demands of the lesser number population, i.e the off-grid population.

Any thoughts?

Article: EnergyNet “Wind for Prosperity” project

This commentary is based on the post by EnergyNet, and the “Wind for prosperity” project, which is an initiative to provide electricity through wind power generation to the some of the off-grid population in Africa. EnergyNet is an investment entity in the United Kingdom consisting of researchers and professionals in Africa who focus on projects in energy and infrastructure in the continent. To read the full post about the project and to learn more about EnergyNet, please click on the link below.

The initiative by EnergyNet seeks the attention of the leaders in energy across the African continent to heavily consider the project, which will yield to provide wind power generated electricity to citizens who are off the grid. Wind power has been around for quite some time, with farmers using wind-mills to convert the energy of the wind into power to grind grains to generate electricity. This technique has been applied in more recent times into wind turbines that harness wind energy and directly convert into electrical power. For information on how wind power is used an energy source, the link below can help to shed light;

There is no denying the great potential of harvesting wind power for electricity, especially if done successfully. So, it is not hard to see the push for this project, as wind power is renewable; it is provided by nature, it is accessible and does not necessarily diminish in the same way fossil resources do. However, there is a disadvantage, the rate, strength and amount of this source cannot necessarily be controlled. This poses the question of resource consistency, specifically, can wind energy be reliable as a single source for electricity?

In order for the wind power technology to be successful, the wind turbines need to be placed in areas where wind is available in strength and speed rate that is more than sufficient to produce the rotational energy needed for the conversion to electrical power. From my knowledge of school geography and introductory meteorology, it is observed that strong winds are generated in areas closest to the ocean, due to the existence of the steep pressure gradient – the large horizontal  pressure difference over a distance that causes the air to move and wind to blow. So from my perspective, I would like to think that most wind projects should be located near the geographical regions that will bring about the strongest winds.

The details of the initiative have yet to be released, that being said I look forward to keeping up with any updates concerning the project. I think that “Wind for prosperity” has the potential to do exactly what it is created to do, I believe, as long as problems that may arise are not overlooked but rather used to perfect the solution that is the project.


Alternative Energy in Africa (Part 2)


This commentary is based on the post written by Dr. Mthuli Ncube, the vice-president of the African Development Bank. To read his full post on the benefits and challenges for renewable energy in Africa, please click on the link below.

Renewable sources of energy have been a popular topic of discussion in both developing and developed nations. Ever since the arise of the issues of global warming and climate change in the past several decades, alternative resources for energy have been observed to be viable solutions to those challenges. Interest has been especially observed for regions in the continent of Africa, where solar, wind, geothermal, bioenergy and hydropower sources are believed to be in abundance and accessible. Although it is true that many of these renewable sources are available, it does not guarantee that the road to providing efficient renewable energy will be easy, nor would it completely solve the problem for the lack of electricity and other amenities for the millions of citizens of the continent.

In the post addressed in the link above, Dr. Ncube, provides us with the benefits and the challenges Africa faces on the subject of renewable energy resources. The latter, I believe is the most important, for knowledge and awareness purposes. The reason, is because problem identification and classification are the first steps in the problem-solving process. This can be seen in the example of calculus based mathematics, where, before any set of equations can be solved, they are first classified and identified for the solver to determine which formulas or mathematical approach to be used in order to calculate the correct solution. It is in this same way I believe energy challenges in Africa should be solved. Dr. Ncube has done a great job of helping us isolate some of those issues and revealing them to us.