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)


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.

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.

Alternative energy development in Africa (Part 1)

Renewable sources of energy have been a popular topic of discussion in both, developed and developing nations. Ever since the issues surrounding global warming and climate change have been introduced in the recent decades, alternative resources of energy have been viewed, by the public and private sector as plausible replacements to the sometimes environmentally harmful fossil based resources. Specifically, in the African continent, there have been talk of renewable resources to be used to improve energy development. Like it is often said, “anything that is high reward is high risk.” 

I think it is very important that we understand the fact that the change needed to provide some millions of the African population with electricity, water and energy, will not occur overnight or even the next couple of decades. In order to make it possible, the problems that exist need to be understood in their whole entirety, because they are not one-dimensional, but rather multi-complex, often involving public and private sector areas of policy, law, politics, economics, business and scientific facts.