600 million people on the African continent still lack energy access

Electrification of Africa will be one of the most important challenges and promising economic opportunities in the global clean energy transition. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is the fastest growing in the world and is expected to double by 2050.

As Sub-Saharan Africa grows and industrializes, Africa’s energy demand is projected to increase by one-third over the next decade. Meeting this demand will require a tenfold increase in electricity generation capacity by 2065. The problem is that in order to qualify for decarbonization, Africa will have to “leapfrog” directly to state-of-the-art (and relatively expensive) green technologies, rather than go through the same stages of economic development that other poorer countries typically go through.

Today, 600 million people on the continent still lack access to energy. However, while most economies are fortunate enough to be developing their economies in an era where they can burn fossil fuels without restriction, Africa is faced with the almost historically unprecedented necessity of directly adopting cutting-edge (and relatively expensive) green technologies.

Although Africa currently has one of the highest concentrations of energy poverty in the world, it is also one of the markets with the greatest potential for renewable energy capacity growth. The continent is extremely rich in natural gas (seen as a springboard to cleaner energy), as well as abundant solar and wind power and highly sought-after rare soil minerals such as lithium and cobalt, which are key components of photovoltaic solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, electric vehicles and renewable energy storage.

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