Africa is set to become increasingly influential in shaping global energy trends over the next two decades as it undergoes the largest process of urbanization the world has ever seen, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Friday.
The IEA's new report entitled Africa Energy Outlook 2019 finds that current policy and investment plans in African countries are not enough to meet the energy needs of the continent’s young and rapidly growing population.
With a particular emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa, the report includes detailed energy profiles of 11 countries that represent three-quarters of the region’s gross domestic product and energy demand, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana.
"Today, 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity and 900 million lack access to clean cooking facilities," the IEA stated.
The number of people living in Africa’s cities is expected to expand by 600 million over the next two decades, much higher than the increase experienced by China’s cities during the country’s 20-year economic and energy boom.
The IEA stated that Africa’s overall population is set to exceed 2 billion before 2040, and in turn energy demand is forecast to rise by 60% to around 1,320 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2040, based on current policies and plans.
According to the agency, drawing on rich natural resources and advances in technology, the continent could by 2040 meet the energy demands of an economy four times larger than today’s with only 50% more energy.
Commenting on the recent report, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol stated that Africa has a unique opportunity to pursue a much less carbon-intensive development path than many other parts of the world.
"To achieve this, it has to take advantage of the huge potential that solar, wind, hydropower, natural gas and energy efficiency offer. For example, Africa has the richest solar resources on the planet but has so far installed only 5 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV), which is less than 1% of global capacity," Birol said.
Birol explained that Africa holds the key to global energy transitions, as it is the continent with the most important ingredients for producing critical technologies.
"For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo accounts for two-thirds of global production of cobalt, a vital element in batteries, and South Africa produces 70% of the world’s platinum, which is used in hydrogen fuel cells. As energy transitions accelerate, so will demand for those minerals," he stated.
The IEA underlined that African countries are on the front line when it comes to climate change, meaning the continent’s energy infrastructure planning must be climate resilient.
Birol added that even though Africa has produced only around 2% of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions to date, its ecosystems already suffer disproportionately from the effects of a changing climate.
"They are exposed to increased risks to food, health and economic security," he warned.
By Gulsen Cagatay