CHRIS GILMOUR: Electrifying Africa is the final frontier
There are reasons to be optimistic despite the continent having abundant primary energy but little electricity
The African continent finds itself in the invidious position of having abundant primary energy but lacking electricity for most of its citizens. It is the least developed of all the populated continents, with the fastest-growing population and yet it struggles badly to come even close to electrifying itself. This allows it to export as much energy as it consumes.
Electricity consumed on the continent is mostly used for mining. Africa earns valuable foreign exchange from mineral exports and needs energy for these operations. And cognisant of the need to locally beneficiate metals and minerals that are hauled from the ground, African governments have been keen to entice smelters to locate in their countries. These structures use vast amounts of electricity in the smelting process, and the heavy demand comes from copper, ferrochrome and aluminium. These smelters are often hampered by a lack of sustainable electricity supply.