Africa is inventing the utility of the future, one that is affordable, decentralized and flexible. One that puts the consumer in control and offers a job engine for economies. To date, most of the activity has been in eastern Africa. Companies like M-Kopa, Off Grid Electric, Mobisol, Azuri and BBOXX have deservedly received a lot of attention for their great work in delivering household solar in countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Others like SteamaCo and Powerhive are breaking new ground in renewable microgrids. As a result, millions more people in east Africa have access to electricity for the first time.
But 2016 could be a breakout year for the 16 countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). West Africa accounts for about 30% of the 620 million Africans without access to electricity, with 76% of the population lacking access to electricity and spending up to 20 per cent of household budget on kerosene. The stakes are big, and the opportunity bigger. Which is why Power for All is helping to activate markets in the region. During a recent two-week visit, including stops in Sierra Leone and Nigeria, we were encouraged to see lots of momentum.
We’re excited for the year ahead—here are a few reasons why:
In Nigeria, Lighting Africa is committed to helping 1.2 million homes gain access clean energy by 2017, at the same time that the government has banned import of small generators. DFID-supported Solar Nigeria is taking solar home systems national. GIZ has an ambitious microgrid program. And the private sector is starting to heat up, with Nova Lumos a first-mover on the back of OPIC support. Between a new federal government focused on anti-corruption and privatizing the energy sector, and a populace that is highly entrepreneurial, Nigeria could finally have a potent combination for change.
Smaller countries like Sierra Leone are preparing for a big push in decentralized renewables as well. With distributed technologies targeted as an integrated component of the post-Ebola Energy Plan (that brings access to donor financing) the next 6 months will be key to shaping the future market and could enable hundreds of thousands of people, as well as critical service providers, to access clean energy.
Other West African Countries
Much more is happening elsewhere. In Benin, the Millennium Challenge Corp. has committed about $50 million for off-grid access, including mini-grids and household devices. In Ghana, Azuri Technologies plans to electrify 100,000 homes by 2017 using pay-as-you-go solar. Senegal just received $13 million for a 2 megawatt solar PV mini-grid project. Mali, where grid expansion can cost up to $19,000 per kilometer, plans for 61% rural electrification by 2033, with renewables playing a major role.
Interested in learning more about western Africa and our findings? Is your company or NGO active in ECOWAS and interested in being part of the Power for All collective voice for change? Please let us know.