The plan to electrify Africa takes shape

The African energy transition could help bring electricity to 600 million people. [Maghrebia/Flickr]

Africa could be fully electrified in as little as ten years, according to the President of the Pan-African Parliament. But the project needs a further $50 billion of funding. EURACTIV France reports

Roger Nkodo Dang, the President of the Pan-African Parliament, presented his vision for the electrification of the African continent to the French parliament on 3 November.

“75% of Africans do not have access to the fundamental rights of light and electricity,” Nkodo Dang said. But the 600 million Africans currently without electricity could be connected fairly quickly.

600 million Africans without electricity

“We have created the tool, now we just need the capital,” the President of the Pan-African Parliament said. On 15 June this year, the 54 heads of state and government of the African Union unanimously agreed to create an African agency for electrification, dedicated to financing, but also coordinating electricity access projects in Africa.

>> Read: EU seeks to tap Africa’s potential as secure energy supplier

The decision of the heads of state and government was then supported on 7 October by a vote in the Pan-African Parliament, a consultative assembly of representatives from the 53 African countries.

“This would allow Africa to increase access to electricity from 25% to 100% in less than ten years and make it the world’s first sustainable continent. The agreement is within our reach,” Roger Nkodo Dang said.

Supported by the Jean-Louis Borloo Fund’s Energies for Africa Initiative, the electrification plan could also provide French companies with a significant avenue for economic growth. The foundation run by the former French ecology minister is financed by a long list of big French businesses (including Total, Bouygues, Bolloré, Engie, etc.).

The need for public funds

In order for the electrification plan to come to fruition, it must first raise sufficient public funds. “We need $5 billion per year, for ten years. It is a trivial amount considering what is at stake, but this sum must be provided in the form of secured loans,” Roger Nkodo Dang stressed.

Expected in the form of subsidies from the countries historically responsible for climate change, including the states of the European Union, this annual injection of $5 billion of public money would be used to leverage the $250 billion of private investment needed to fully electrify the African continent.

>> Read: Private sector to invest in Africa’s energy potential

The statements of the Pan-African Parliament president were broadly supported by French MPs, whose counterparts in the Senate had also backed the initiative in October, adopting a resolution demanding that the government “support the approach adopted”.

The author of the resolution, senator Jean-Marie Bockel, said, “This electrification is a chance for Europe to accompany the African energy transition while promoting renewable energies, and to stop deforestation, which would only accelerate with the future population boom.”


Despite parliamentary support, France has yet to translate its financial promises into action. During the debate, the French Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, said “France supports renewable energies in Africa through its development policy.”

“Our commitment must be up to the task. Africa does not need new promises, but concrete commitment,” he added. “But we cannot be the only ones.”

This was a direct appeal to the world’s big emitters of CO2, who would all have to dig deep in their pockets to finance the African plan. It is widely hoped in developing countries that the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) this December will unleash the first wave of financial commitments.

“If the COP21 cannot end in an international agreement on this subject, we might as well pack up right now,” warned Philippe Vigier, the president of the centrist UDI group in the French parliament.

Multiple initiatives

Faced with the African energy challenge, the number of private and public initiatives has multiplied in recent years. This has led to a certain amount of competition between bilateral and multilateral programmes.

In 2013, the United States announced the launch of the “Power Africa” plan. The objective of which was to double the availability of electricity in Africa by 2018, with $7 billion of public funding and $14 billion of private investment.

French electrical equipment specialist Schneider Electric launched the Energy Access Ventures fund (EAV) on 22 June this year. With a public-private fund of €54.5 million, the company hopes to bring electricity to a million homes in sub-Saharan Africa by 2025.

>>Read: The Green Climate Fund set for launch before the COP 21

The Green Climate Fund, which has received pledges of around $10 billion, also aims to fund green energy projects in developing countries. France has already promised $1 billion to this initiative over two years. 

Electricity is a vital resource for social and economic development. Basic services like education, sanitation and communication depend on it to light and heat schools, keep food fresh and power modern technology.

But the United Nations Development Programme estimated in 2015 that 1.6 billion people still had no access to electricity.

Most of these people live in the least economically advanced countries. More than 75% of the population of 20 African countries have no access to electricity. The situation in Myanmar, Afghanistan, North Korea, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia is similar. 

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