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Africa is being left in the dark whilst the rest of the world enjoys reliable electricity

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

Across the world over 1.1 billion people are still without any form of electricity whatsoever. That means that children are being taught in dark unlit schools; citizens are walking the streets after light, raising questions of safety; and, businesses have to close early throughout the winter period as daylight runs out far too quickly.

How is it that as we progress into 2019, over 1.1 billion people in the world still have no access to electricity? That cannot be right.

And of that 1.1 billion, almost 95% of people live in Sub-Saharan Africa and the developing countries in Asia.

That being said, the electrification rate in Africa has increased since 2011, now standing at 43%, but it has struggled to keep up with the population increases found across the continent.

At the turn of the millennium Africa had over 817 million people living across the continent, but fast-forward to 2018 over 1.3 billion people now reside there. However, during the same time, only 200 million Africans were connected to the grid for the first time.

It is clear that there are significant electricity generation advances across Africa but population growth is seriously outstripping electricity generation by a very wide-margin.

There is not just a poor electricity generation rate across Africa, but there is also a disparity between African countries that are very close to universal access to power and those that are so far behind that they won’t achieve that milestone for many decades to come.

Gabon, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are all past the 90% electrification rate, whereas 15 African countries are below the 25% mark. A quarter of all those without power come from Nigeria, Angola, Sudan and Ethiopia- some of the most populous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Naturally, there are difficulties in African nations securing significant sums of money by domestic and international companies to build new and improved power plants, albeit with fossil fuels or renewable energy.

But they should not be left behind!

Every citizen of the world deserves access to electricity and the time to act is now. The only way for countries to secure quick, reliable and uninterruptible power is for governments to prioritise investment in power generation using the cheapest and most widely available technologies – whether that is hydro, gas, coal or renewables.

African Leaders: World Bank should allow developing countries to use fossil fuels

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

The president of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim has been contacted by various African leaders urging him to relax the international bank’s rules on financing fossil fuel power plants in developing countries.

African leaders are annoyed at the ignorance of western countries whom have dictated to developing countries around the world, but especially in Africa, that they are not entitled to any fossil fuel baseload power.

These leaders feel that they are entitled to the same rights and privileges that western countries are entitled to, and they make the argument that they are not responsible for most of the carbon already polluted in the air, so why should they be held back it securing electricity for the 600 million Africans without any form of power.

Collectively, African leaders sent a message to Mr Kim ahead of his recent visit to Indonesia. They said, “You’re outraged by climate change, we have almost no responsibility for putting the carbon in the air and yet you’re telling us we can’t develop and have baseload energy because we can’t use a single drop of fossil fuel for our own energy needs.”

In response, Mr Kim said, “We feel that you have to listen to the social justice arguments from people from poor countries who have not put any of the carbon in the air and want to have baseload.”

Current technology today can significantly reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the air, so the argument the World Bank is making is a non-starter in the eyes of many organisations and institutions around the world.

It will be interesting to see if the World Bank will change their patriarchal edict preventing finance for fossil fuel power generation projects, giving African leaders the ability and freedom to secure uninterruptible 24/7 electricity for all of their citizens.

Hydropower has a key part to play in unlocking electricity for Africa’s 600 million

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

Over 139 years has passed since the creation of the lightbulb by Thomas Edison , but yet there are over 1.2 billion people globally, and 600 million in Africa without any form of electricity, meaning no lightbulbs to do school work, working at night, or to keep them safe whilst walking the streets.

It is well known that there just isn’t enough electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. As countries and industries attempt to keep up with demand, the population rate across the continent exceeds any advances made.

The World Bank reported that between 2014 to 2016, 76 million people across Africa were connected to electricity for the first time, but at the same time the population grew by 55 million people. So the net amount of people connected was only 21 million over two years, meaning that the 600 million figure has hardly changed in the last two years.

The African Development Bank has indicated that in order for the situation to change the continent needs to expand energy generation by a minimum of 6% per year by 2040. As it stands, Sub-Saharan Africa enjoys 170GW of energy capacity, which is equivalent to that of Germany.

This needs to change.

Hydropower is one of the sources in which is being tipped to change the future for Sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, the region only has 27GW from hydroelectric power, but there are plans to introduce another 31GW by 2030.

Most countries that make up the region have long heavy flowing rivers in which they are turning towards to create dams in order to generate vital electricity.

But, the UK think tank, the Grantham Institute, has indicated that hydropower alone will not secure the continent’s future due to concerns over flooding or droughts.

Angola, Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan have all pledged to increase their hydropower energy capacity, as has Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This includes two more units at the 2,070MW Lauca hydropower station, the largest of its kind in Angola.

Hydropower appears to be one of the main sources that will help power Africa’s future, but it is pertinent to not only just invest in this source of electricity. Africa as a continent is resource rich with the likes of oil, gas and coal.

With a healthy combination of all of these types of power generation sources, Africa and in particular, Sub-Saharan Africa will be able to provide electricity to the remaining 600 million people who desperately need this life-changing resource.

UK aid budget could help exports of British energy tech

UK aid budget could help exports of British energy tech

By | Bangladesh, Developing Countries, Nigeria | No Comments

The UK’s £14 billion aid budget is set for its biggest overhaul in years, with plans to use aid spending to help British exporters to invest in Africa and developing Asia.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has promised her department will experience a “big shift”, following years of controversy about the UK’s 0.7 percent of GDP

The new strategy would see UK companies given support to invest in poorer markets, on the principle that the aid budget should only grow if a part of that spending benefits the UK economy too. Ministers are said to be “frustrated” that French and German businesses have been more successful at exporting to the developing world, including to Commonwealth countries.

In the energy access space this could mean UK manufacturers being supported to deliver large-scale power projects in energy poor Commonwealth partners like Nigeria and Bangladesh.

With our huge expertise in clean coal, renewables and carbon capture, this could be a chance to bring energy to millions, unlock new markets AND boost UK plc.

The UK Government should only agree to the World Bank’s demand for more money under certain conditions

The UK Government should only agree to the World Bank’s demand for more money under certain conditions

By | Bangladesh, Developing Countries, India, Nigeria | No Comments

At its annual meeting in Washington this month, the World Bank will be demanding more money from British taxpayers, as a part of planned increase to its capital budget. The US is already highly sceptical, and we believe the UK Government should only agree if certain conditions are met.

First, we have to be sure that our money will be spent wisely.

World Bank rules which privilege renewable energy at the expense of conventional energy projects do little to help with poverty. Developing countries can only build up their industry, create jobs and improve healthcare if they have a foundation of reliable power. As Indian Railways Minister Piyush Goyal put it last year “Every country needs a baseload. I cannot tell my country. ‘guys, it’s 6pm in the evening, shut everything down because the solar has gone off.”

Second, we should insist that World Bank spending supports British trade as well as aid

Key Commonwealth partners like India, Nigeria and Bangladesh have populations in the tens of millions without access to reliable power. They are desperate to use their coal and gas resources to bring electricity to their people, and they want to do so in the cleanest possible way. Technology like high efficiency low-emissions coal plants, which British manufacturers specialise in, can help them, providing a crucial transitional bridge as we move towards a low-carbon economy. Yet under current World Bank rules it is not eligible for funding. We should insist on an end to these restrictions, helping millions access lifesaving electricity while supporting British exports.

The world’s poorest countries did not create the problem of climate change. They should not be made to pay for the mistakes of developed countries by forgoing access to the low-cost, reliable power that we used to industrialise. When the UK delegation travels to Washington this month, this is the case we need them to make.

Why unreliable power keeps poor countries poor

Why unreliable power keeps poor countries poor

By | Nigeria | No Comments

Chimago Nnodim is a young entrepreneur based in the state of Imo, southern Nigeria. He’d always dreamt of building a business and providing jobs for the young people in his community. Three years ago, that dream became a reality when he used a bank loan to set a factory producing sachet water. Buying a truck for distribution, he took on ten local young people to run his operation.

Demand for purified sachet water is high, but like millions of business-owners in sub-Saharan Africa, Chimago hasn’t been able to expand. The culprit is Nigeria’s disastrously unstable power supply, dubbed “epileptic power” by locals. The result is that Chimago has to spend the equivalent of tens of thousands of pounds on an expensive and dirty diesel generator.

“The deplorable power situation forced me to use generator always”, he says. “In fact, we get electricity about two times a week, if we are lucky. Even when there is electricity, it does not last more than two hours. Worse still, it fluctuates, as there is low voltage. Consequently, there are leakages in our production. That is our predicament in this community.”

Imagine trying to build and grow a business with only two hours of power each week. It’s why reliable, 24/7 electricity is so essential to solving Africa’s poverty, and why intermittent renewables can’t do the job on their own. To create the jobs that are needed to secure his country’s future, entrepreneurs like Chimago have to be able to access low-cost reliable power.

If it fails to solve its energy crisis, Nigeria could become the world’s next big security risk

If it fails to solve its energy crisis, Nigeria could become the world’s next big security risk

By | Nigeria | No Comments

Nigeria has half the population of the US but generates only 1 percent as much electricity. This is despite the fact that Nigeria has 3 billion metric tonnes of coal in the ground and some of the world’s largest gas reserves.

And it gets worse. Nigeria’s population is growing. Around 2045, the country’s population is set to surpass that of the United States, meaning tens of millions of new Nigerian consumers and job-seekers needing even greater amounts of energy.

One estimate puts Nigerian national power demand at 213 gigawatts by 2040, yet on current trends the government is likely to fall way short. Today Nigeria produces just 4 gigawatts, while a UN initiative is focused on generating 45GW from renewable energy by 2030: way below what is needed.

As development expert Dr Todd Moss told the US Senate recently, the implications of this are incredibly serious:

“The specter of a Nigeria that cannot come close to meeting its growing population’s demands for jobs and modern lifestyles—all underpinned by high volumes of energy—should be alarming.”

Without massive amounts of additional energy in the system, economic growth and job creation can’t possibly keep up with population growth, meaning a jobless and poverty-stricken future for tens of millions of young Nigerians.

The populous West African country is a vital partner in the fight against terrorism, disease and international criminal networks. We simply cannot afford for it to become a failed state like Afghanistan. Yet that’s exactly what will happen if it fails to solve its energy crisis.

Economist: Africans consuming less electricity now than in the 80s

Economist: Africans consuming less electricity now than in the 80s

By | Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

According to the World Bank, the proportion of Africans with access to electricity increased from 19% in 1991 to 37% in 2014. But as a recent article in the Economist points out, this is nowhere near as impressive as it seems.

More people than ever may be connected to the grid, but they are not consuming more electricity. In 2014 each African consumed, on average, just 483 kilowatt hours (kWh). That is less than in the 1980s.

By contrast, Americans use 13,000 kWh each on average. Indeed, in the West, a typical family fridge consumes several times more power than a whole family of Nigerians.

As the Economist says:

“Some greens may hail such frugality. They should not: the alternative to electricity is often filthy, dangerous charcoal stoves and kerosene lamps. Besides, if utilities are unable to sell enough electricity to cover their costs then they cannot invest in maintaining or modernising their grids.”

Worldwide, power consumption is strongly correlated to GDP. The more electricity you use, the richer your country is likely to be. Yet this is not the case in Africa, where many countries use less power than their national incomes would suggest.

According to the Economist, this is because Africa has so little of the world’s manufacturing and heavy industries, who are the biggest consumers of electricity. In turn that keeps demand for power low in the rest of the economy. Without industrialisation and the good jobs it brings, ordinary Africans just can’t afford more electricity.

It’s why an approach to energy access which stresses small-scale solar powered solutions – while the ignoring the needs of industrial consumers – is unlikely to do much to alleviate poverty. To power Africa, all forms of energy will have to be used.

On International Migrants Day let's remember what's driving so many people to migrate

On International Migrants Day let’s remember what’s driving so many people to migrate

By | Developing Countries, Nigeria | No Comments

“In Nigeria there is nothing, we have nothing. There is no money, there is no food, there is nothing. Even work. Even if you finish university, there is no work.”

Alima, 23, interviewed at a migrant detention facility in Misrata, Libya

If you arrived in a slum and had no work or money, a family to support but not enough to eat, would you stay put? Or carry on moving?

Earlier this year the European Union published a report which finds that lack of access to modern energy is one of the root causes of “irregular” economic migration to Europe.

This is not surprising. Without electricity, people can’t stay healthy or improve their lives. In rural areas electricity is needed to power crop irrigation systems. In cities and towns, it’s essential for job-creating businesses. In hospitals it can mean the difference between life or death.

Yet with 1.2 billion people still without access to power, millions are now on the move – ready to risk everything in search of a better life. This is putting huge pressure on the transit countries on the route into Europe, fueling tension and instability.

In a recent speech to the G7, the head of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina compared the young people drawn to undertake the dangerous journey to Europe like moths drawn to a flame:

“Even insects migrate from where it is dark to where there is light. No wonder Africa’s youth – our assets – take huge risks migrating to Europe, looking for a better life. The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe; it should not be at the bottom of the Mediterranean; it lies in a prosperous Africa. We must create greater economic opportunities for our youth right at home in Africa.”

But we know what the solution is. The EU report points to evidence from Latin America, showing that when rural areas received electricity, internal migration slowed and even began to reverse. With affordable, reliable power, the world’s poorest countries can offer their citizens a better life, without forcing them to leave or fight to find it.

Nigerian butchers say lack of electricity is holding them back

Nigerian butchers say lack of electricity is holding them back

By | Developing Countries, Nigeria | No Comments

Reliable electricity is essential for jobs and livelihoods. Just ask the butchers who work in the town of Mararaba, north central Nigeria.

They’ve been petitioning the government to connect their abattoir to the power grid. The community has drilled three boreholes, but electricity is needed to drive the pumps and ensure a steady supply of water. Without electricity, in other words, they can’t keep their abattoir clean.

The butchers also say they have no way of preserving the meat that isn’t sold on the market each day as they don’t have power for the necessary refrigeration facilities.

The plight of the Marabara butchers shows why a grid connection matters, and why small-scale solutions like off-grid solar can only help so much. In a busy abattoir, the fridges need to work 24/7, not just when the sun is shining.

Sadly though this story is not uncommon. 42.1 percent of businesses in the least developed countries currently cite electricity as major constraint on economic growth, according to recent UN research.

But it’s not acceptable. Sub-Saharan Africa needs to be creating millions of jobs each year to provide for its huge, young and growing population. Yet without a decent power infrastructure it’s not going to happen.

By helping developing countries access all their energy resources, we can build a more secure and prosperous world. If we fail, we risk a near future of conflict, social unrest and further mass-migration.