September 5, 2023


With its vast and diverse landscape, Africa has the potential to harness abundant solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal resources, paving the way for a sustainable and prosperous future.

More by Winnie Kabintie

Africa Climate Summit ’23: understanding Africa’s renewable energy capacity

Africa Climate Summit ’23: understanding Africa’s renewable energy capacity

The sun, wind, and rivers of opportunity

The first Africa Climate Summit kicked off in Nairobi on Monday with stakeholders citing that two key topics must surface if the summit is to be considered impactful.

Key among these is the call to increase Africa’s global climate financing and. also, discussions on how best to meet Africa’s renewable energy generation potential.

Africa under-funded in global climate finance

Despite African nations being among the most vulnerable to climate change effects and the fact that they also possess significant natural assets that could provide global climate solutions, the continent receives a disproportionately small amount of global climate finance compared to other regions.

Africa currently receives US$19.5 billion per year in total climate finance and only 3% of global investment in clean energy.

Serah Makka, Director for Africa at The ONE Campaign, has urged leaders to leverage the Africa Climate Summit as a tool to elevate policy changes to start the journey in building a more balanced trade and more resilient African economy starting with funding.

The key to unlocking the untapped potential of this continent isn’t handouts or second-hand solutions from rich nations. It’s removing the barriers standing in our way,” Ms Makka said.

No country must choose between improving the lives of their people and protecting the planet. If the rest of the world truly gets behind Africa they can help unleash a green economic revolution that will drive growth and prosperity across the continent and help the whole world to rise to the biggest shared challenges we face,” she further stated.

Africa’s renewable energy

So what or where exactly does Africa’s potential in renewable energy lie?

With its vast and diverse landscape, Africa has the potential to harness abundant solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal resources, paving the way for a sustainable and prosperous future.

Unlocking solar power

One of Africa’s most significant untapped resources is solar energy. With more than 300 days of sunshine a year in many regions, the continent receives an astonishing amount of solar radiation. This potential remains largely untapped, even though recent initiatives in parts of the region are changing that.

Countries like Morocco have invested heavily in solar power, with the Noor-Ouarzazate complex being a prime example. This massive solar farm is set to provide power to over a million people when completed, illustrating the possibilities of harnessing the African sun.

Harnessing Africa’s wind power

The continent’s wind resources are equally outstanding. Northern and Eastern Africa, along with coastal areas, have some of the most consistent and powerful wind currents globally. Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project, which incorporates wind turbines, exemplifies the potential for sustainable energy generation in the region.

Furthermore, African nations are embracing wind power for both domestic consumption and export. These initiatives not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also bolster local economies.

Hydropower potential

Africa is endowed with numerous rivers and lakes that have the potential for hydropower generation. The Grand Inga Dam project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, when completed, is touted to become the world’s largest hydropower plant, producing over 40,000 MW of electricity. Such initiatives will not only provide reliable electricity but also stimulate economic growth and regional cooperation.

Geothermal energy advancements

In regions like East Africa, tectonic activity has created abundant geothermal resources. Kenya is already taking lead in harnessing this energy source, reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. The Olkaria Geothermal Power Station in Kenya is one of the largest in the world, demonstrating the viability of geothermal energy in the region.

Challenges facing renewable energy development in Africa

While the potential for renewable energy in Africa is vast, there are certainly challenges to overcome.

The development of the necessary infrastructure and the accessing of appropriate technology are definite issues. However, they stem off the first and most obstructive of the obstacles that stands in the way of Africa’s ability to harness its abundant renewable energy resources.

Attracting investment in the above-listed areas of the energy industry is the greatest challenge in Africa’s way. Though there is untapped potential on the continent, there is also the perception that this sort of investment is a risky one. Political insecurity – evidenced most recently by Gabon’s recent military coup – has long stood between Africa and the meeting of its economic potential and with regards to advancements in renewables, this is no different.

If Africa’s leaders can create a comprehensive plan that ensures potential foreign investors can have confidence in the markets they are putting their money into, the other challenges renewables come along with will tumble. The confidence, however, is key. This is something that Kenya’s president, and the Africa Climate Summit 2023’s host, alluded to in one of the addresses he has made to Summit delegates.

In his discussions on potential and opportunity, Ruto stressed the need to turn the former into the latter.

Economic and environmental benefits

The transition to renewable energy in Africa is not just about mitigating climate change; it also brings substantial economic benefits. Investments in renewable energy infrastructure creates jobs, stimulates local economies, and reduces reliance on costly imported fossil fuels.

Moreover, renewable energy helps address the issue of energy access. Millions of Africans currently lack access to reliable and affordable electricity, and renewable sources offer a decentralized and cost-effective solution to bridge this gap.

It can be done!

Africa’s abundant renewable energy potential is a game-changer for the continent and the world. As African nations harness the power of the sun, wind, water, and earth, they are not only shaping a sustainable future but also positioning themselves as leaders in the global transition to clean energy.


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