The lack of reliable power grids is a major deterrent to the industrialization of the continent's economies at a time when Africa hopes to make a transition from being a mere commodities producer
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), said he will focus in coming years on tackling Africa's chronic power shortages in an attempt to unlock the continents’ economic potential and end its vulnerability to fluctuations in commodity prices.
Though the continent is populated by nearly a billion people, sub-Saharan Africa consumes about as much power as Spain, which has a population less than five percent that number, due to poor generating capacity and limited transmission networks. Two-thirds of Africans have no access to electricity.
The lack of reliable power grids is a major deterrent to the industrialization of the continent's economies at a time when Africa hopes to make a transition from being a mere commodities producer to a manufacturing hub and challenge Asia where labour costs are rising.
According to the International Energy Agency, Africa requires an additional $450 billion investment in the power sector to halve blackouts and achieve electricity access for all its urban areas by 2040.
As of 2013, the African Development Bank - founded in 1964 and funded by African nations and shareholder countries outside the Africa - had lent a total of 67.22 billion Units of Account or about $94 billion.
"Africa could easily be growing at double-digit GDP rates if we solve this problem of energy," said Akinwumi Adesina, who was sworn in as the AfDB's eighth president on Tuesday.
"Energy poverty on the continent has to be solved as a matter of urgency, as a matter of scale. This is going to be my most important priority," he told Reuters in an interview last week.
A development economist with a doctorate from Purdue University in the United States, the 55-year-old was elected in May to head the Ivory Coast-based institution for a five-year term.
"Africa has to industrialise," he said. "We have to add value ... so that (Africa) does not expose itself to the continued volatility ... of global prices for commodities."