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Africa’s hydropower future

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Courtesy of SciDev.Net

From Côte d’Ivoire in the west to Ethiopia in the east, Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies. Debates often proclaim a new era of economic boom, innovation and social opportunity for the continent. But beyond the hype, millions of people remain affected by severe poverty, and at the root of this lies a perennial problem: energy poverty. Could hydropower hold the key to energy access in Africa?

Introduction

The energy gap

Energy poverty is rife in Africa. Of the more than one billion people living in its 54 countries, over half lack access to electricity.

Rapid population growth looks set to further strain energy services, with some estimating that the continent’s population will surpass four billion by the end of the century.

Access to electricity is both limited and uneven. Economic powerhouses such as Egypt have almost total electricity coverage, but it remains scarce in countries such as Chad and Liberia, as well as South Sudan, where only 1.5 per cent of people have access to such energy. Similarly, step outside the continent’s cities and the picture is also bleak: the electrification rate for rural settlements is just 27.8 per cent.

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