The energy sector in Africa has become a focus area for governments and private corporations alike. With 635 million Africans still without electricity and demand for energy rising rapidly, the continent is investing in innovation and technology to find solutions to its energy challenges.

The growing role of digitalisation, the increasing investment into renewables, and enhancements to regulatory structures in many African countries are creating opportunities for companies operating in the energy sector, and are enabling electrification of even rural communities at a steady pace. Despite this, a lot more needs to be done to meet the needs of the continent’s growing population.

These issues, among others, will be discussed at the upcoming Africa Energy Indaba (AEI), to be held in February 2018. In its 10th year, this event focuses on exploring and expanding on solutions for the energy future of Africa.

One of these is renewables. Africa provides an ideal opportunity for the application of renewable energy solutions and technologies. Research by McKinsey indicates that Africa’s potential energy generation capacity is up to 1.2 terawatts excluding solar, and more than 10 terawatts including solar. Africa has solar in abundance and can provide almost 10 terawatts of new energy. By 2040, it has been estimated that more than 25% or Africa’s total energy will originate from geothermal, hydro, solar and wind, indicating a more than four-fold increase from only 5% in 2013.

Similarly, digitalisation is changing the face of the energy sector on the continent. It has been estimated that African countries can add a value of R4 trillion ($300billion) to the continent’s economy by 2026 by adopting digitisation.

The progress each African country is making in this space differs, with Kenya and Ethiopia having already developed good systems, according to industry professionals. South Africa remains ahead, advancing in line with other developed countries. However, African countries that are moving up the digital maturity curve still have unique challenges to enable the distribution of energy.

In Nigeria for example, many businesses make use of the national grid as a secondary (back-up) source of energy. Innovative entrepreneurs are already developing solutions, such as portable solar-powered mobile charging stations to support the digital economy.

The digital maturity in Africa is extremely diverse, and as a developing continent, it has great socio-economic needs – of which many can be solved through digitalisation. However, emphasis should be placed on creating an African lens and implementing disruptive technologies in a different way. Electricity supply networks that use digital communications technology, such as Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) or Power-Line Communication (PLC), to analyse, detect and react to local changes, are increasingly being incorporated into the African power utilities’ action plans.

Digitisation and the implementation of Industry 4.0 will feature prominently at the Africa Energy Indaba, where a leading discussion will be featured with a focus on the new age of digitalisation and its impact on the African energy sector. Side events such as the 5th Independent Power Producers and Power Purchase Agreements Conference (IPP & PPA Conference) and the Women in Energy Conference will extend the discussions around the African energy sector even further, complementing the event’s focus on regional integration, scenario outlooks for the region as well as relevant policy implications.


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