Africa needs investors to beat energy crisis

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The world’s poorest continent needs $21 billion annually to overcome its power problems despite sitting on large energy resources, the African Union (AU) infrastructure head said on Thursday.
Power shortages are common in many African nations, costing economies billions of dollars, shutting down industries and dampening investment, even though resources of solar, hydro, oil, gas, coal and geothermal power are abundant.
“Power means factories. It means farms. It means everything,” the AU infrastructure and energy commissioner, Elham Ibrahim, told Reuters in an interview.
Only 30 percent of Africans have access to electricity compared with an average of 40 percent in other emerging markets, Ibrahim said.
Wariness on the part of foreign investors has increased with the global economic slowdown. Where once they saw one of the last frontier markets, now they see too much risk.
“The financial crisis affected everything,” Ibrahim said. “But should everything stop because of it? The potential (for investment in energy) here really is very high.”
Ibrahim said that more private investment was needed.
Pooling power supplies across a number of African countries may help the continent meet its energy needs and grow its economies more quickly, Ibrahim said.
“There are some power pools that are working well,” she said. “In South African countries it is working and in Togo and Benin one company provides power for both countries. So we are encouraging strategies of interconnectivity.”
Many African countries are working through regional trading blocs to thrash out joint infrastructure and energy plans, but problems still persist.
Power demand on the continent is expected to rise by 150,000 megawatts between 2007 and 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.
Ibrahim said that Africa should consider atomic power to help meet shortfalls. “We may look at the next stage to atomic energy,” she said. “It’s a big source of energy. We already have it in South Africa, and Algeria and Egypt are looking into it.”