The planet’s largest, poorest continent has the motive and financial means to leapfrog regions that industrialized in the 19th and 20th centuries, directly into a clean energy-powered society, if it can find the skilled hands to build the infrastructure to tap its large solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal potential.
What’s holding everyone back is neither market nor money, Bloomberg reports, but human capacity. “There is a significant shortage of skills on the ground, particularly at a project manager and site manager level,” said Adam Bruce of Dublin-based Mainstream Renewable Power Ltd., which is leading a consortium to install 1.3 GW of renewable generation across four sub-Saharan countries.
“It’s caused by the fact that the renewables sector is growing so fast in the region.”
That growth is deliberate. Last December, African heads of state unveiled an ambitious plan to develop up to 300 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, part of an effort to double the continent’s electricity supply and bring service to many of the 640 million people who currently lack it.
If demand is not in short supply, neither is money—nor, apparently, profit. “There’s not a shortage of debt for renewables in Africa,” London-based fund manager Anthony Marsh told Bloomberg. “Multilateral banks and development funds are almost competing amongst themselves to provide money.”
Clean energy investments in sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled to US$5.9 billion in 2015, Bloomberg reports. It anticipates that the region will install more than 12 GW of new wind, solar, and geothermal generation by the end of this decade.
Even Akinwumi Adesina, head of the African Development Bank, who estimates the capital required to meet the continent’s energy goals at more like US$55 billion year, seems unworried about financing those goals. “I’m not bothered by that amount,” he told Bloomberg last year. ”That money is there.”
Ghana’s acting power minister, John Abdulai Jinapor, told a renewable energy conference last month that in his country’s power sector “has proven to be quite profitable. Most of the companies that have invested in Ghana, they are thinking of expanding.”