WIP - Continental Generation Profile: Africa

It's a work-in-progress (WIP) because it's midterm time this week and last, so my output has slowed dramatically.

The idea here is to take a look at the generation profiles, one continent at a time, in a series of graphs and maps. I'll try to discuss a little about my experience with the region and what notions I've had in the past about its energy resources and generation. My background is there just to be open in case you want to perceive a bias in my representation of the data. Without further ado,


I spent the first half of 2010 mostly in Cape Town, but I also traveled through most of South Africa, some of Zimbabwe and Botswana, and nearly all of Namibia. I was studying abroad at the University of Cape Town, but the semester ended earlier than usual due to the World Cup, and my return flight was a week or two after the World Cup's end in order to avoid the high prices immediately around and during the event.

Before I arrived, my knowledge of energy markets and generation in Africa consisted of a vague idea that Namibia had attempted to build a huge dam, many armchair theorists drew squares on the Sahara showing how little (relative to their countries) space it would take to power Europe via solar, and that there was significant oil production in the middle-western portion of the continent. While there I became at least vaguely aware of some issues in the countries I visited and lived in:

South Africa

  • Significant youth campaigning against South Africa's aging nukes, which was weird to me, coming from the Chicago suburbs, where we have more than people seem to think.
  • Their incredible build-up of CTL (coal-to-liquids) technologies due to their restricted access to liquid fuels during the apartheid.
  • The country had excellent potential for the development of wind and solar, but no actual projects.
  • Had a suspicion that there was huge potential for hydro-power in cooperation with Lethoso, but that the need for water in the relatively-aird South AFrica would supercede that need, at least for now.


  • Never did build the dam with Angola I had heard about previously.
  • The government bought fuel from South Africa, then subsidized it so that prices were actually cheaper there (which pissed off a few vacationing Afrikaners I met).
  • No economic oil (firms have recently been trying to say otherwise, but it hasn't gone well yet).


  • Honestly, I didn't learn anything about energy in Zim (although I would have guessed that very little was happening.


  • All coal, all the time.



If you look at all renewable generation, there appears to be a wide spread across most of Africa, excluding the Saharan nations.

However, a very large portion of this generation is large hydro-electric infrastructure. Removing the hydro paints a markedly different picture. It's interesting here that Egypt and Kenya are the big winners. Egypt seems reasonable as  a state that has existed in its current form for longer than some other African nations, and has always had relatively strong ties to the West. Kenya is more surprising, and speaks to the economic strength and positive growth the country has experienced relative to much of Africa. Oil-exporting nations such as Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, have all neglected to pursue development of non-hydro renewables despite the somewhat steady flow of resource profits. While the lack of infrastructure in some states (such as the Congo or Zimbabwe) could be explained by regime instability and corruption, South Africa stands as a shining example of a largely modern economy that has generally failed to pursue renewable resources. This could be a result of significant past investment in traditional fossil fuels and fission plants, but with the high potential for wind and solar and presence of at least one world-class engineering school (University of Cape Town), it seems odd that development has been so slow. If I had to guess, I would place the blame on institutional intransigence within the government, exacerbated by the strength of the department of minerals relative to the government's other interior departments.

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