Solar energy may well be a green and cost-effective solution to the chronic power issues faced by many African countries, but its potential remains largely untapped across the continent.
A June 2020 report by the World Bank, ‘Global photovoltaic power potential by country’, illustrates the clear gap between Africa’s high photovoltaic (PV) power potential and its paltry installed capacity.
Unlike Europe and North America, which have considerable installed capacity, but lower average rates of potential solar energy, many African countries have been beset by problems concerning the electricity grid, regulation and attracting capital.
The report highlights that 93% of the global population lives in countries with an average daily PV potential of 3.0–5.0kWh/kWp. Countries in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa have average solar potentials exceeding 4.5kWh/kWp.
In particular, the whole African continent has an average daily potential of 4.49kWh/kWp with an installed capacity of just 4878.1MW. Compared to other regions — such as Asia-Pacific, which has a slightly lower daily potential of 4.06kWh/kWp, but an installed capacity of 282,046MW, an increase by a factor of 58. Europe has the lowest potential, at daily 3.39kWh/kWp, but the second-highest installed solar capacity, which stands at 124,729.6MW as of 2018.
Certain governments, such as in Morocco, Egypt and Senegal, have committed to developing their renewable energy infrastructure. There have also been notable large-scale projects over the last few years, such as Egypt’s 1.8GW-capacity Benban Solar Park. Across the whole continent, fDi Markets has tracked investments from energy companies such as Engie, Enel and Power Construction Corporation of China.
Yet, while the global pressure for clean energy mounts, Africa has another uniquely difficult problem: its energy poverty. As of 2018, only 32.6% of the continent’s rural population had access to electricity, compared to 85.3% in Asia-Pacific, 92% in Latin America and 100% in Europe and North America.