SSA owns 3% of the world’s gas reserves, 4% of oil reserves and 23% of uranium reserves, as well as important mineral reserves including 25% of bauxite (notably in Guinea), 56% of cobalt (Democratic Republic of Congo) and 28% of the diamonds.
, Economist and Prospectivist, and , Energy Systems Modeling and Analysis Specialist, IFP Énergies nouvelles
Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA, which consists of 49 countries) has the dual advantage of being extremely rich in natural resources and human capital. Good management of these two elements could guarantee the economic development of the sub-continent in the coming years, whereas today it represents only 3% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 2% of the value of trade world. In 2017, SSA had a population of 1.061 billion.
A territory rich in raw materials
SSA owns 3% of the world’s gas reserves, 4% of oil reserves and 23% of uranium reserves, as well as important mineral reserves including 25% of bauxite (notably in Guinea), 56% of cobalt (Democratic Republic of Congo) or 28% of the diamond. Some countries, such as Nigeria and Angola, are in the focus as more important : these two countries have respectively 58% and 18% of oil reserves in the subcontinent. Overall, however, natural resources remain fairly dispersed throughout the territory.
Thus we find 85% of the reserves of SSA oil in the Gulf of Guinea – or 55 billion barrels – and uranium in the South, 29% in Niger and 65% in the southern region of the continent – Botswana, Namibia and South Africa in particular.
Like many resource-rich countries at the global level, African producers nevertheless suffer from low diversification of their economies. They have experienced a form of deindustrialisation since the 1970s, mainly because of their marked dependence on commodity market cycles, whose prices are extremely volatile.
Weak infrastructure, historical specializations in low value-added production – energy extraction or mining without transformation – and governance issues in natural resource management have often undermined development dynamics.
Many paradoxes exist: in Nigeria, which has the largest GDP in sub-Saharan Africa, 45% of the population – 87 million people – currently live below the international poverty line. The region’s primary energy consumption, ie 0.7 tons of oil equivalent (toe) per capita, remains well below the world average of 1.9 toe / inhabitant in 2014.
The primary energy mix in SSA is 61% based on the use of biomass – energy produced from organic matter – and 34% on fossil fuels, of which around 17% is coal. CO2 emissions are among the lowest in inhabited regions of the world; today they represent only 4% of the world total, for about 17% of the global population.
However, the demographic projections for 2050 and the anticipated development dynamic point to fears of a marked increase in emissions in the years to come.
A demographic force in the making
With 1.26 billion people, the African population now accounts for 17% of the global total and is expected to more than double by 2050 to reach about 40% of the global population by 2100, according to the UN. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 84 percent of the continent’s population, with an economic growth rate of 2.8 percent, 0.1 percent above the African average.
While the workforce is young and abundant, with 95% of the African population under 60 and 43% under the age of 15, unemployment rates are close to those observed in the West – despite large disparities between countries. In 2017, Africa had an unemployment rate of 8%, China 4% and the European Union 8.2%. Demographic dynamism places an additional 12 million workers each year in the labor market.
However, the low productivity observed in the agricultural and industrial sectors makes African workers less competitive than their counterparts in Asian emerging countries. Especially since access to basic education is not guaranteed everywhere and some of the elite are fleeing the continent for better job opportunities in Europe or the United States.
A considerable delay for electrification
407 million people, or 40% of the population of sub – Saharan Africa live below the international poverty line, with limited access to water, electricity, basic health care and rudimentary education. In 2015, SSA accounted for more than half of the world’s poor, compared with a quarter in 2002.
In general, the infrastructure deficit is considerable in sub-Saharan Africa. Between 130 and 170 billion dollars would be needed each year for infrastructure development, according to the African Development Bank.
Electricity is one of the priority sectors: in 2016, 57.2% of the population – or 591 million people – do not have access to electricity in SSA. The majority of Africans connected to the network suffer from regular cuts, preventing any economic activity of magnitude. Consumption is very low, 20 times less than that of France and 15 times less than that of the European Union).
There are also remarkable geographical disparities: territories like Seychelles have an electrification rate close to 100% while Chad or Burundi are below 9%. The disparity between rural and urban areas is also very important, with an average electrification of 22% for the first, against 71% for the second in 2016.
At the level of the continent, this electrification is slowly increasing, thanks to the policies and actions put in place. In 2018 and for the first time, the electrification of the territory grew faster than population growth.
Regional disparities remain strong and some states, such as Mali, are even losing their electrical capacity, with war or terrorism causing destruction of infrastructure.
Tangible consequences for the population
This situation is not without impact for the population and the economy. In the non-electrified zone, young people can not study at night, farmers can not follow the price of their products in local markets, and women spend an average of 1 to 5 hours per day harvesting wood, can hardly access a job and emancipate themselves.
From an economic point of view, losses related to transmission and distribution – 23% on average, up to 48% in Rwanda – and low production – 1.8% of global electricity production for 17% of the population – lead to frequent cuts. Between 2010 and 2017, there was an average of 8.9 cuts per month in SSA that can last an average of 5.8 hours .
Companies must use backup diesel generators to mitigate network weaknesses, weighing on finances and not improving the business climate: Liberia and Chad produce more than 50% of their electricity through diesel generators individual.
Between 60 and 90 billion dollars a year would be needed to reach 100% of electrification in urban areas and 95% in rural areas by 2025, according to the African Development Bank .
It is therefore urgent to establish a structured, realistic, rapidly deployable plan with lasting repercussions for society as a whole in order to develop the electrical sector in SSA. The key to African development in the coming years may imply a massive and structured deployment of renewable energies