A new Atlas released at the 2017 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Durban, South Africa, this week highlights the opportunities and challenges for sustainable development of the energy resources on the continent.
Energy consumption in Africa is the lowest in the world, and per capita consumption has barely changed since 2000 shows the Atlas released by the UN Environment and African Development Bank.
Prepared in cooperation with the Environment Pulse Institute, United States Geological Survey and George Mason University, the Atlas consolidates the information on the energy landscape in Africa.
It provides information in the form of detailed ‘before and after’ images, charts, maps and other satellite data from 54 countries through visuals detailing the challenges and opportunities in providing Africa’s population with access to reliable, affordable and modern energy services.
“The Atlas makes a strong case that investments in green energy infrastructure can bolster Africa’s economic development and bring it closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It is therefore an important policy guide for African governments as they strive to catalyze national development by making use of their energy resources,” said Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director and Regional Representative of UN Environment, Africa Office.
Current energy production in Africa is insufficient to meet demand. About a third of the total African population still lacks access to electricity and 53 per cent of the population depends on biomass for cooking, space heating and drying.
“This Atlas will be instrumental to ease access to information and data in the energy sector for all stakeholders, including the donor community, African governments and the private sector,” said Amadou Hott, African Development Bank (AfDB)Vice President in charge of power, energy, climate and green growth.
The Atlas shows both the potential and the fragility of the continent’s energy resources which are at the heart of Africa’s socio-economic development.
It highlights some success stories of sustainable energy development around the continent, but it also puts the spotlight on major environmental challenges associated with energy infrastructure development.
Africa’s reserves of coal, natural gas and oil represent 3.6 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 7.6 per cent of global reserves respectively.
A growing population, sustained industrialization and rising urbanization mean that energy demand in Africa is increasing. Only an insignificant fraction of the existing energy potential has been tapped into—leaving the continent lagging behind in the production and manufacturing sectors due to low and unreliable access to energy.
Among its main findings, the Atlas shows that energy from biomass accounts for more than 30 per cent of the energy consumed in Africa and more than 80 per cent in many sub-Saharan African countries.
Indoor pollution from biomass cooking — a task usually carried out by women — will soon kill more people than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.
Sub-Saharan Africa has undiscovered, but technically recoverable, energy resources estimated at about 115.34 billion barrels of oil and 21.05 trillion cubic metres of gas. More women than men suffer from energy poverty.