Africa’s flatlining electricity trajectory requires urgent intervention – IEA

24th January 2024 By: Terence Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

Africa’s flatlining electricity trajectory requires urgent intervention – IEA

Big divergence as African electricity demand flatlined over the past three decades and India and South East Asia's surged
Photo by: IEA

A new International Energy Agency (IEA) report on electricity highlights that per person electricity demand across Africa has been stagnant for three decades, making the continent a worrying outlier in electricity demand trends.

As of 2023, 600-million people, or more than 40% of the African population, lacked access to electricity, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The authors of the ‘Electricity 2024’ report note that, while electricity use per capita has risen rapidly over the past 30 years in India and Southeast Asia, it has flatlined in Africa, with negative implications for economic development and growth.

“In 1990, the average electricity consumption per person in Africa exceeded that of Southeast Asia by 40% and India by 65%.

“However, recent decades have witnessed a significant surge in electricity demand and supply in India and Southeast Asia, accompanied by rapid economic development and prosperity in these regions,” the report states.

Southeast Asia overtook Africa in per capita electricity consumption in 1995, and India achieved the same in 2008 and, by 2023, African consumption of 530 kWh a person was half that of India and 70% lower than in Southeast Asia.

The figure falls to only 190 kWh once South Africa is excluded, but the country is also a key cause of the continent’s weak recent demand performance, with record loadshedding last year triggering a 4% year-on-year slump in domestic demand.

Electricity demand in Africa overall increased by 2% in 2023, marginally higher than the year before, and the IEA only expects per capita electricity consumption to recover to 2010-2015 levels by the end of 2026 at the earliest.

“Africa’s population is set to grow rapidly, making up one-fifth of the world’s population by 2030.

“This highlights the massive potential and need for additional electricity supply in this region,” the reports states.

For the period 2024-2026, the IEA is forecasting a 4% average yearly growth in total African electricity demand, which is more than double the mean growth rate observed for the 2015-2023 period.

About 60% of this growth in demand is to be met by expanding renewables, the remaining mostly by natural gas.

Global electricity demand, meanwhile, is also expected to rise at a faster rate over the next three years, growing by an average of 3.4% yearly. Clean sources of generation, mostly renewables but also nuclear, are set to cover all of the world’s additional electricity demand over the period.

The IEA argues that the international community needs to work together with African governments to enable urgent progress, describing access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy as essential if African countries are to achieve their economic and climate goals.