The African Development Bank (AfDB) has revealed its new power programme for Africa, under which it will invest $12bn in the next five years.
These finances will support its New Deal on Energy for Africa, which plans to achieve global access to electricity in Africa by 2025. The idea was born out of the Energy Week conference held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire at the end of March, which brought shareholders together to talk about methods of improving energy access.
Until quite recently, the AfDB and other organizations considered off-grid power provision as a temporary solution measure, intended to provide electricity to people until their homes were linked to the grid.
However, the universal boom in renewable energy technologies and the mounting appeal of energy self sufficiency in the West has altered the way the concept is seen. The process is prone to pick up the pace when battery storage becomes cheaper and more competent.
AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina said: “Africa’s energy potential is as huge as its electricity shortage. We must move rapidly to release this energy potential. We must be smart, efficient, sustainable and quick in our actions…even though we can use a mix of approaches, off-grid solutions must be at the center of our approach to attain the motivated electricity access goals that we have put.”
The AfDB is eager to see decentralized solar PV take off in the rest of the continent, beyond East Africa, and is eager to utilize its fiscal muscle to support lasting integrated planning and hedging tools to alleviate foreign exchange risks. It can also play a role in motivating skills development and in the longer period perhaps also component manufacturing within Africa.
The huge question is whether this process will be centered on national grids or far more localized mini-grids, possibly covering just only villages. This matter was discussed in meetings on the sidelines of Energy Week but will certainly become a more fundamental concern in the future.
The latter seems more probable in the short term, but in the long term the former may become more significant, turning power utilities into infrastructure operators and power trading platforms more than generators in their own right.