Oil and natural gas discoveries across multiple African countries have graced the headlines of many local and international media outlets this past year. 2012 has seen many governments in Africa experience renewed enthusiasm as prospects for economic progress loom amidst multiple oil and gas discoveries across the continent, creating new emerging oil producing countries on the continent.
However, at least for the time being, many African nations are still struggling to keep up with energy demands. Take the case of Kenya for instance, the country has experienced several oil and gas discoveries this year promising perhaps a brighter future for the Kenyan economy. However, the reality of the country’s current energy situation reveals significant deficits in terms of the energy supplied vs demand for the same. The country’s citizens and industries have in times past been subjected to power rationing plans especially in dry seasons as the country is heavily dependent on hydro-generated power. This has led to the government considering alternatives to hydro, specifically the country is turning to focus on geothermal (‘Geothermal to solve Kenya’s energy problems‘) and even considering nuclear power as well as partnering with other states to bolster it’s capacity to meet the country’s power needs.
On the other hand, Nigeria is an established oil producing country. Despite this the country is plagued with costly and inconsistent power supply even as the government continues to promise reform in the power sector. Earlier this year, telecommunications companies in Nigeria were caught in a tug of war with the Nigerian government as sector regulators fined telecomm companies for substandard service, on their part, the telecommunications companies pushed back claiming the government was not doing it’s part to ensure consistent, stable power supply and security for their facilities. Quoting Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria in a Global Post article on the issue:
“Fines or penalties will not solve the problems with service,” Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, told GlobalPost. “It will not address the fundamentals. The fundamental problems are issues of power and issues of protection and the telecom infrastructure.” – Gbenga Adebayo chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria
In fact, telecommunications companies in Nigeria have to incur high costs to generate their own power from diesel generators. In fact, according to a survey done by PriceWaterhouseCoopers revealed that electricity was among the top concerns for CEOs in Nigeria, it was also estimated that in 2012 Telcos in Nigeria would spend about N45.9 billion in 2012 to fuel generators that power Base Transceiver Stations. The situation in Nigeria is even drawing in other nations to consider investing in the country’s power sector. President Jonathan Goodluck, however claims there are improvements in power supply.
And all this in the face of rising population and increased urbanization across the continent. It is no wonder African states are looking for all kinds of solutions to the energy challenges they face. There are grand projects in the pipeline - Ghana is pursuing a massive Solar project that is set to be the largest in Africa at a cost of $400M and is aiming to provide electricity to over 100,000 homes. On the other hand, innovation could be just what is needed to solve these problems.
The telecommunication sector has been a key growth sector on the continent and the entirety of the ‘mobile growth in Africa’ has been cited over and over again, recent estimates showing that the continent could surpass the 80% subscriber penetration rate in 2013. However, as we have seen in the case of Nigeria, the high cost of energy is a stumbling block to the continued growth of the telecommunications sector in that country as in others across the continent. Can innovation be applied to remedy the situation. The short answer – of course!
For instance, Orun Energy Global a Mauritius-registered company with operations in several African countries as well as off the continent, is innovating to provide energy efficiency solutions for telecommunications operators. Their solutions have been able to provide up to 88%+ reduction in diesel consumption and 99%+ uptime. The full results of their single outdoor site test are revealing. Orun Energy founder and chairman, Kwabena Smith explains further:
Read more about Orun’s efforts from an article on Balancing Act Africa (as well as a separate article on their work providing innovative power solutions for BTS in Ghana)
It is evident that, the energy needs of African states will continue to increase over time. The problem can be solved by pursuing long term infrastructure projects but there is lots of room for innovation.
Are you involved in or are you aware of innovation being applied to solve the energy needs in Africa? Let us know about the project or feel free to leave your opinions and comments in the commenting section below.