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Unlocking Africa’s energy potential: 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’

Claire Wilby

African Development Bank (AfDB) President, Akinwumi Adesina, has described energy as ‘the lifeblood of any society and the passport to economic transformation’. Creating energy to light up Africa is high up on the agenda for the AfDB.

Presenting to potential global partners at Davos this year, Adesina quotes the African proverb 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’ as he introduced the ‘Transformative Partnership on Energy’, inviting cooperation with governments, the private sector, bilateral and multilateral agencies.

The availability of energy is seen as an indication of the quality of life. In the developed world we take for granted that we can switch on the lights in our houses, store food in a fridge and obtain basic medical services – none of which would be possible without electricity. Before such basics can be taken for granted, economic growth and development is required. Putting the energy infrastructure in place to deliver power sparks the opportunity for those standards to be achieved and quality of life to be improved.  

This is the starting point for the AfDB initiative. They are looking to invest in power generation to improve the quality of life for Africans. The bank already has significant investment in the sector at around US$11 billion, mainly in public sector projects across generation, distribution and regional interconnectors. However, with more than half of the continent’s population without access to electricity, there is recognition that there is much more development to be achieved. See some of our other blogs on AfDB’s initiative and power generation in Africa.

The AfDB is taking a broad strategic approach to the development program, and its focus is to unlock existing potential: solar, wind, hydro and geothermal projects as well as conventional resources are all to be included in the development plan to add 160 GW of new generation capacity. In addition 130 million new grid and 75 million off-grid connections are planned to be added to the network across the continent.

A move to alternative markets in this era of low oil prices could incentivize AfDB’s potential partners. Investors with an appetite for higher risk markets, looking for a higher return to fill a gap that the conventional energy markets have created, may well be the solution to power Africa. The goal is for the lights to be on across the continent by 2025.

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Africa is as dynamic a market as it is diverse. We understand that changes impacting your business can arise rapidly and vary significantly across the continent.

Our understanding of Africa’s markets stems from extensive experience on the ground. Through our Inside Africa blog, we aim to apply this insight to provide you with timely commentary on the latest developments across Africa, as well as insight into the many nations that make up this vast continent.

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