Electricity for all in Africa: Possible?

By Bakary Traoré, Economist, Sébastien Markley, Statistician, and Ines Zebdi, Research Assistant, OECD Development Centre 1 


Explore the 2017 African Economic Outlook: Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa for more on this subject


Electricity-in-Africa-shutterstock_563620138For decades, access to electricity has been a serious challenge in Africa. It still is. 600 million Africans are not connected to an electrical network. African businesses cite electricity amongst the two most severe constraints on their operations (Enterprise Surveys, 2016). Twenty-five of the 54 countries in Africa, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Senegal, deal with frequent power crises characterised by outages, irregular supply and surging electricity costs. These are symptoms of insufficient generation capacity and a lack of infrastructure.

Despite these sobering facts, a number of recent initiatives signal that major improvements may be underway. The impetus to act is driven by the benefits Africa can reap by investing in electrification. Such benefits go far beyond direct job creation in energy infrastructure, as important as that is. Several pieces of evidence (Jimenez [2017], Torero [2014], van de Walle et al. [2013]) suggest that household electrification also increases job opportunities by carving out more time for work and enabling rural micro-entrepreneurship. We see three reasons for hope that Africa is on the path to greater electrification – provided certain conditions are met.

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Africa’s Blue Economy: An opportunity not to be missed

By Dr. Carlos Lopes, UN Under Secretary General & Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa

Blue-economyThe world’s oceans, seas and rivers are a major source of wealth, creating trillions of dollars’ worth in goods and services as well as employing billions of people. Three out of four jobs that make up the entire global workforce are water-dependent. It is forecasted that the annual economic value of maritime-related activities will reach 2.5 trillion euros per year by 2020, while the International Energy Agency estimates that renewable energy from the ocean has a power potential sufficient to provide up to 400% of current global energy demand. Yet Africa’s blue potential remains untapped. Continue reading

Developing countries and the renewable energy revolution

By Prof. John A. Mathews, Professor of Strategy at Macquarie Graduate School of Management in Sydney, Australia and author of Greening of Capitalism

There was a time when arguments about development and energy were seen as different discourses. They came together in the familiar call for poor people in developing countries to have access to electricity. As for energy needed for industrialisation, fossil fuels – with all their burdens on the balance of payments and geopolitical entanglements – were tapped to fill the need.

To be sure, the Western world as it industrialised over the past 200 years enjoyed enormous benefits from fossil fuels. The transition to a carbon-based economy liberated economies from age-old Malthusian constraints. For a group of select countries representing a small slice of the global population, burning fossil fuels enabled an era of explosive growth, ushering in dramatic improvements in productivity, income, wealth and living standards. Continue reading