Nigeria has seen a resurgence of polio caused in part by the lack of reliable power.
Polio is a potentially fatal virus that attacks the nervous system, and was global pandemic until vaccines was introduced in the 1950s.
In 2016, Nigeria was one of only 5 countries globally that reported cases of the illness. On 12 August 2016, Nigeria’s minister of health announced a polio outbreak, following two children being paralysed by the disease.
Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) revealed that only 37 percent of children are partially vaccinated, with a shocking 40 percent are not vaccinated at all.
The World Energy Access report recently highlighted that only 6 percent of Nigerians have access to electricity, leaving 171 million without any access. According to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the lack of electricity is hindering the government’s efforts for store vaccines against deadly viruses.
“Nigeria has electricity challenges, We have infrastructure problems in the supply chain of our vaccine supply in the country”, said Lawal Bakare, the NCDC’s spokesperson.
Vaccines must be stored at low temperatures, between -21°C (-5.8°F) and 4°C (39.2°F), if they are to keep their potency. Nigeria is a hot, tropical country that on average experiences temperatures of around 27°C (80°F) all year round. Regular power outages mean that refrigerators are unable to maintain the required temperature, leading to the spoiling of vaccines.
The problem is further compounded by the worsening security situation in the north of the country, where Islamist militants, such as Boko Haram, are making it increasingly difficult for health workers to reach those most in need of vaccination.
There is no excuses for allowing children to be at risk from diseases such as polio. Nigeria is a country blessed with huge natural resources wealth which should ensure that its country has access to 24/7 power. A poor electricity supply means that 80 percent of Nigerian children are currently at risk from various diseases preventable using vaccines.
Nigeria cannot protect its most vulnerable unless it has reliable and secure power supply. Electricity is not just a product of development, it is the key to its success.
Despite being home to Africa’s largest reserves of natural gas, Nigeria has suffered from chronic power problems for decades.
Over half the country – around 100 million people – still have no access to electricity, while those that do consume just 30th of the power of the average South African. Although it’s one of the world’s most populous countries, overall Nigeria generates less electricity than the Republic of Ireland.
How to explain this paradox? The problem, according to Nigeria’s Oil Minister Emmanuel Kachikwu, is that Nigeria has historically prioritised the development of oil over gas. (Unlike gas, crude oil is extremely expensive to use in large-scale power generation and instead is refined into petrol and diesel).
“Look at what’s happened with Qatar – imagine if we had gone down that route,” Mr Kachikwu says, referring to the wealthy emirate which has become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.
In Nigeria, by contrast, a significant amount of gas – some 12 percent – is simply burnt off because the country’s oilfields lack the technology to capture it. Elsewhere, gas production is held back because poor infrastructure means it can’t be stored or transported to households or power stations.
“Right now there is a lot of stranded gas that is not even getting to the market,”, according to Mr Kachikwu. “The infrastructure gap is huge.”
To tackle the problem, the Nigerian Government now plans to ask the international oil companies operating in Nigeria to provide expertise and funding to develop the country’s gas.
Mr Kachikwu says the need to invest in gas is especially important as global demand for oil is expected to peak in the next 20 to 30 years, as the electric car revolution gathers pace. In addition, Nigerian ministers have also said that they want to use the country’s largely unexploited coal stocks to provide up to 30 percent of the nation’s energy mix.
With abundant natural resources, Nigeria is in an enviable position. But to solve its energy poverty crisis once and for all it has to act now.
Electricity isn’t just about powering fridges, TVs and smartphones. For many families in Africa, it can mean the difference between life or death.
Edith Jibunoh, a senior official at the World Bank, tells this story from her own childhood growing up in a power-starved region of Nigeria:
“I considered myself extremely lucky to be part of a family that could afford to have a back-up generator, which meant we could treat ourselves to television shows at night. No electricity did not seem like a big deal, until my cousin had a car accident. He was bleeding and needed immediate surgery.
We went from hospital to hospital, but everywhere was pitch black. Finally, we found a clinic with a functioning generator. But we had to go find diesel fuel to power up the generator. His life was spared because we could afford to source fuel quickly.”
But not every story ends like this.
“Not long ago,” Edith continues, “I received news that an old friend had lost his wife because she had to have a C-section without electricity, in the dark.”
An estimated 1 billion people around the world depend on healthcare facilities that lack reliable power, meaning standard procedures like delivering a baby are fraught with danger and difficulty. Every day 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to the WHO. 99 percent of these cases occur in the developing world.
We are campaigning for reliable power for all. Because no-one should have to face a C-section in the dark.
Nigeria could become a steel-making power house if the country had access to reliable energy, according to a prominent Nigerian CEO.
Uche Iwuamadi, Executive Director of Africa Industries Group, believes that Nigerian steel manufacturers struggle to produce at full capacity due to unreliable power.
The company recently took matters into their own hands and decided to build their very own gas power plant to provide electricity for their steel mill.
It now produces over one million tonnes of steel each year, accounting for 33 per cent of all steel consumed in Nigeria, and is looking export to other countries in Africa.
Iwuamadi believes that if firms were able to produce at full capacity, Nigeria would be able to save over $650 million a year by producing cheaper steel which could be sold on the domestic market.
Developing countries need access to baseload power in order to fully industrialise their economies. Heavy industry, such as manufacturing, provides well-paid skilled jobs, and produce high value products that can be taxed and used to pay for education and healthcare.
1.2 billion people around the world still don’t have access to electricity, but that isn’t the whole story. A billion more depend on inadequate or unreliable power.
This second group, who may have a grid connection but who put up with constant blackouts are often overlooked in discussions of energy poverty. Yet unreliable power can be economically and socially devastating.
Take Oribanwa, in Lagos State Nigeria, where the community are on the grid but have been living without electricity for a whole year.
In the words of one resident: “We the residents of this community have been sleeping in darkness. We don’t have light to be able to enjoy things that make life worthwhile. We cannot watch television; iron our clothes; put on fan or air-conditioner and keep foodstuffs in the freezers or refrigerators due to absence of electricity in the area.
“Even the security aspect of it is frightening. You know with electricity, thieves and people with criminal intentions are scared to carry out their acts. Therefore, we don’t enjoy night life as residents go to bed early for fear of the unknown.”
Unreliable power caused by weak electricity infrastructure is estimated to cost African countries around 4 percent of lost GDP growth each year, equivalent $59 billion across the continent. It also puts huge pressure on family budgets, as households are forced to buy expensive diesel generators just to keep the lights on. For a more secure world, we have to ensure that everyone has access to affordable and reliable power.
Financing of energy projects in Africa fell by $14billion in 2016, according to a report from the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA).
Established at the 2005 G8 Summit, the ICA is an international NGO that advocates for greater infrastructure development in Africa.
The report shows that public and private investment in energy fell from a historic high of 33.5 billion in 2015 to $20 billion in 2016, including the World Bank, which cut its spending by $800 million.
600 million Africans currently live without electricity, and this number is expected to rise to remain stubbornly unchanged, even by 2030. Investment cannot fall if we are to guarantee secure and affordable energy access to the world’s poorest.
As the World Bank themselves have said, the advantages of universal energy access would bring enormous benefits: 1.5 trillion extra hours of paid work, savings of $38 billion on kerosene and charcoal, and 300 million school-aged children studying in better conditions.
US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has promised that the US is ready to help expand electricity access across Africa, including from fossil fuels.
Speaking at a regional energy conference in South Africa, Mr Perry argued it was time to break the “culture of shame” around fossil fuels and use new technology to make them cleaner.
Mr Perry said he was concerned about the low levels of electricity access across Africa, where 600 million people still live without power – a number which is predicted to remain unchanged, even by 2030:
“Development starts when you have a power supply,” he said, adding that Washington is prepared to help countries develop their energy systems “from all sources.”
Leaders in Africa have previously stressed the need for a pragmatic approach to power generation. In a speech earlier this year, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said:
“Each country needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.”
Mr Perry was also critical of multilateral development banks like the World Bank, which currently restrict funding for fossil fuel projects in the poorest countries, warning that it was time for them to “take their thumb off the scale” and prioritise access to affordable power.
Rather than try to restrict access to fossil fuels, the US is banking on new technology like carbon capture and storage, which experts which experts say will be essential for the fight against climate change.
“We will invest in African energy projects, but it’s also time to let technology be your friend”, Mr Perry said.
“We will help this continent make more power, and we will do it cleanly.”
The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, has said that Africa holds the key to feeding the world.
Dr Adesina is the recipient of this year’s World Food Prize for his work as Nigerian agriculture minister – which saw him improve the availability of seed, fertiliser and funding to Nigerian farmers.
In a speech for World Food Day, he argued that “Africa holds the key for feeding the 9 billion people that will be on the planet earth by 2050. This is because Africa sits on 65% of the uncultivated arable land left in the world. What Africa does with agriculture will undoubtedly determine the future of food in the world!”
He added: “Therefore, more than ever before, we must help Africa to rapidly modernise its agriculture and unlock its full potential.”
He said that it was “unacceptable” that Africa is spending $35 billion a year on food imports and that cheap food from abroad is decimating rural economies.
He recommended that Africa copy the example of Thailand and Brazil, which have transformed their savannah lands into the food powerhouses of the world.
But to make that happen: “There is a critical need for supportive public policies and significant investments infrastructure, especially for roads, irrigation, storage, warehousing and agro-processing.”
This shows why energy matters. All of these investments, from pumped water to industrial scale refrigeration, will require a steady and constant electricity supply. Yet this is something sub-Saharan Africa, where two thirds of the population are still without power, conspicuously lacks.
The rest of the world has to realise that Africa’s ability to bring power to its people and its ability to feed the world are fundamentally intertwined.
At an energy conference this week in Nigeria, delegates were once again reminded of the calamitous scale of the Nigeria’s power problems.
Oil and gas rich Nigeria is notorious for having one of Africa’s worst records on energy access, (95 million people still live without electricity), despite being blessed with abundant energy resources.
According to reports, Kandeh Yumkella, a former United Nations Under-Secretary-General, presented a thought-provoking paper on Nigeria’s weak performance in the energy sector and the kind of energy mix it requires to propel industrialisation and drastically reduce poverty.
As one local reporter put it: “one could feel the disappointment in his tone as he reeled out damning statistics about Nigeria’s potential for energy sufficiency versus its struggle to light up its cities and rural areas. By the time he was done, many participants were left angry.”
However, one bright spot in the conference was a speech given by Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku, who explained how a small 400kw hydro dam had “transformed” the state’s moribund tea industry and was providing 24-hour power to neighbouring communities. As the Governor’s presentation made clear, even Ajuba, the seat of the Nigerian government, can’t yet boast of 24-hour power.