By Isabella Njeri

With Africa’s consumption of modern energy among the lowest worldwide, the continent’s potential for growth and development is immense. To harness this potential and meet climate and development goals, the continent’s spending on energy needs to more than double by 2030, as highlighted in the latest International Energy Agency (IEA) report.

Commissioned by the 2024 Presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) to inform its Energy for Growth in Africa initiative, the IEA report urgently recommends increasing the annual energy investment across Africa to around $240 billion by 2030, with more than two-thirds going to clean energy.

According to the IEA report, Africa accounts for just 6% of global energy use and less than 3% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Furthermore, over 600 million people on the continent have no access to electricity, and nearly one billion people do not have access to clean cooking supplies. Thus, boosting access to secure and sustainable energy in Africa remains essential.

IEA projections indicate that $172 billion annually is needed to accomplish universal access to electricity and clean cooking while meeting the continent’s climate commitments under the Paris Agreement. Moreover,  around $22 billion will be needed yearly to provide electricity access to the 600 million Africans who currently lack it and $4 billion to provide clean cooking access to over one billion people still using polluting cooking fuels and stoves.

Significant investment is also needed to provide decentralized electricity solutions like solar home systems and mini-grids, particularly in rural areas where the majority of those lacking access reside. Funding for clean cooking technologies and associated fuel supply chains is likewise critical to address the severe health and environmental impacts caused by polluting stoves used by two-thirds of Africans today.

While public funding and development finance institution capital will play vital enabling roles, the report stresses that most of the required investment must come from private sources.  However, the IEA warns of a major possible challenge in mobilizing sufficient investment from the private sector due to the perceived investment risks in Africa, such as unstable regulations, financially distressed utilities, land acquisition issues, and unreliable grid connections across many African nations.

Accordingly, the IEA underscores the importance of coordinated support to mobilize investment on this massive scale. The organisation advises that this will require robust policy actions and coordinated support across African governments, G7 countries and other developed countries, private investors and international organisations.

Between 2000 and 2021, Africa’s total energy supply increased by 72% from 21 248 969 terajoules (TJ) to 35 715 142 TJ. Over the same period, CO2 emissions from fuel combustion in Africa increased by 84% from 1 322 Mt in 2000 to 2 437 Mt in 2021.

Moreover, coal accounted for 12.3% of Africa’s total energy supply in 2021 and 3% of the global supply. Natural gas accounted for 16% of total energy in Africa, with a 198% increase in supply between 2000 and 2021.  Natural gas and coal were the largest sources of electricity generation at 42% and 28%, respectively, as of 2021.