AfDB Study Examines the Role of Wind Energy in Africa’s Economic Growth

01/11/2012
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The installation of wind power stations represents “an original approach” for African countries seeking to ensure sustainable economic growth. This was the message behind a study released on Wednesday afternoon during the African Economic Conference, which is taking place in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

This study appears at a time when the African continent continues to lag seriously behind in the implementation of certain development projects. There is a notable failure to act in the field of energy, especially in terms of a set of options for establishing carbon trading.

It was indicated that such steps will be taken through the exploitation of wind energy in eight African countries. These will benefit from this project during the pilot phase, between now and 2013.

The report cites those African countries with significant potential wind resources including: Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Mauritania, Egypt, Madagascar, Kenya and Chad.

The report entitled “Wind Energy Development in Africa” was produced by a team of experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB). It notes that this natural resource is not being used efficiently to generate electricity for the benefit of isolated communities across the continent. Nevertheless, despite this negative view, it is possible to be optimistic about the projects currently underway.

Emelly Mutambatsere, Senior Research Economist at the AfDB and co-author of the study, spoke on the occasion of the report’s presentation. Mutambatsere emphasized that public authorities needed to take a leading role in encouraging economic operators in the private sector to invest in this area.

“The public sector is definitely still the leading actor in projects of this type in their current phase, and not only as providers of funding,” Mutambatsere explained. “However, governments should also be involved as principal partners in order to ensure that projects are implemented successfully.”

The exact sum that would need to be released to fund projects of this kind remains unknown. However, the estimates included in this report show that the region of North Africa is, to date, the only part of the continent which has been able to create mechanisms designed to develop the market for this type of renewable energy drawn directly from wind. It is followed by the regions of East Africa and southern Africa respectively.

While, in some circumstances, external help is a condition for development, the research economists are convinced that it is not, in itself, sufficient for achieving this goal. The active involvement of the private sector is also necessary.

For Mutambatsere, the challenge to be faced is for local communities in Africa to grasp the opportunities and take ownership of these kinds of projects. At the same time, efforts are needed to implement a system for interaction, with mapping and a database, on the availability of potential developments in wind energy.

In sum, the wind development project remains in the launch phase. After all, the entire continent of Africa currently produces a mere one Gigawatt of electricity. This represents the output of a few wind-power stations that have been built with US $1.8 billion in funding provided by donor organizations.

The African Development Bank is one of the financial institutions that is investing in the development of infrastructures on the continent. It emphasizes a need to mobilize further resources to develop the wind energy market. According to the new study, this market has been identified as one of the principal catalysts of the socio-economic development of the continent.

It is envisaged that 16 other projects of this type, currently being implemented in various African countries, will generate a further capacity estimated at one Gigawatt. It should also be remembered that another huge wind-power station project is being planned. This will be established in the Sahara region in Morocco. It is expected to generate at least five Gigawatts of electricity, according to experts.

This pan-African event has, for the first time, been held in a country other than Tunisia or Ethiopia. It brings together hundreds of delegates including, notably, experts on economic and development issues, and political decision-makers and funders.

It is expected that delegates will give special attention to ways and means for the African continent to successfully maintain a level of macro-economic stability. This is in the context of a global financial crisis, unprecedented in its size and scope, in many parts of the world. This crisis poses a threat to the growth of trade and investments on the continent.

Similarly, current instability in certain parts of the continent, especially in Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been cited as a serious obstacle to implementing sustainable development projects.


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