March 7th, 2011
11:33 AM GMT
What sound would you associate with Africa? For me, it is the hum of generators.
From Lagos to Maputo, from Addis Ababa to Dar es Salaam, many businesses are powered by generators because power is either non-existent or intermittent.
I recently chatted with someone from the World Energy Council and he told me that in most sub-Saharan African countries about 15% of the population has access to a consistent, standard supply of electricity. It is only in three countries (South Africa, Mauritius and Botswana) that electricity access rates are above 50%, he said.
Basically, nearly three-quarters of the continent has no access to power when the sun sets over Africa. We know that seen from space at night, Africa is pitch dark while other regions twinkle with light.
The implications are huge. I concede that this realization is nothing new - the need for more power stations and for creating clean sources of energy is a widely recognized issue. However, I spend each week talking about “Business in Africa” and the striking question is, how will Africa embrace the opportunities of the 21st century if there is no stable electricity network to power growth?
As the continent continues to develop at the rates we are currently seeing, the demand for more power is only going to grow. This is, of course, only going to put further pressure on the already inefficient infrastructure.
There are solutions - and many countries are trying to rectify the situation - but the process is expensive and slow.
How bad is the electricity situation where you are? Which African country is the worst affected by power cuts? How do you deal with not having regular electricity? Is this issue one of the biggest barriers to development?
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