Africa's Quest for Power

Why does Africa remain poor? Civil war, famine, disease, the legacy of colonialism-all have been advanced as plausible reasons for the continent's grinding poverty and economic backwardness. But another factor-probably related in some ways to these others-plays a fundamental role in stifling development: a lack of modern energy sources.

Africa's enormous energy potential remains vastly under exploited. This is a key conclusion of the 2003/2004 African Economic Outlook, published recently by the OECD. While almost half of Africa's 53 countries could profitably produce hydropower, only 7% of this potential is reached because of poor infrastructure and the high costs of initial investments.

Furthermore, despite its large geothermal and solar energy potential, Africa accounts for only 1.3% of the world's installed solar facilities, and only four countries have started exploiting underground heat sources. Of the fossil energy sources - primarily oil - that African countries do exploit, only a quarter is consumed locally.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.