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Africa's Energy Crisis

Aired May 12, 2007 - 12:30:00   ET


FEMI OKE, HOST: Hello and welcome to INSIDE AFRICA. I'm Femi Oke, with your weekly look at life and issues on the continent.
This week, our focus is on energy and climate change in Africa. The continent is in the middle of a serious energy crisis, and it's getting worse. The World Bank says that in another decade, the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa who do not have access to electricity could jump from 20 percent to about 60 percent. We'll talk more about this later. But first, Nick Valencia takes us on the trip to Uganda, one of Africa's least powered nations.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is no telling when the power will go out in Uganda. Sometimes, there is no power at all. In fact, 95 percent of Ugandans don't have access to electricity from the national grid.

This small community of workers in the Kesene (ph) slums of Kampala has learned how to adept. The 24-year old Secelio Ronni (ph) showed us that without electricity, staying productive was that much harder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see, even the other metals made out of stainless, they are (inaudible) which we make free using our free hands. We are huge in number, but purposefully, the population has no capital. You come in, you see there is no machines to operate. Electricity is a problem here.

VALENCIA: Reliable electricity is a problem everywhere in Uganda, and the power crisis has much to do with the country's source of energy, the Nile River.

Uganda is run on hydroelectricity, and the country's significant economic development has overwhelmed the country's current energy supply. On top of that, it's believed that the effects of global warming has decreased the country's rainfall, and lowered the Nile's water.

Others argue that the low water levels are caused by overdraining from existing dams, not global warming. Whichever it is, the low water levels mean Uganda's hydroelectric turbines run well below full capacity.

The World Bank has recently approved a $360 million loan to build a power station at the Bujagali Falls, located near the Nile's source, as well as more than $400 million in credits for power infrastructure. The Bujagali Falls project dam could help alleviate Uganda's power shortage by 2011. But for now, Ronni and his coworkers in Kesene must do without power, which means little work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no work, and we're willing to work. We want to work, but there's no power.

VALENCIA: Their problems are repeated across the country. The energy shortage is blamed for the high cost of power in Uganda, and that in turn is crimping the country's economic growth.

Nick Valencia, CNN, in the Kesene slums of Kampala, Uganda.


OKE: In Liberia, there are youngsters there who have never, ever been able to switch on an electric light. And in some places like Kenya, the quest for solutions to Africa's power shortage is shifting to alternative energy. It's a way to look towards the future, and in many cases, business and environmental concerns are leading the way. Christian Purefoy reports on Kenya's flower industry.


CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You could call it a blooming business, and for Kenya, it really is.

The country's the leading exporter to the European Union. It supplies about 30 percent of Europe's flowers, making floriculture the second highest foreign exchange earner in Kenya, employing directly and indirectly over 1.5 million people.

But Kenya's flower farms are under fire for the impact on the environment around them.

Lake Naivasha lies surrounded by the farms, but its water levels have begun to drop as farms pump more water to keep up with the demand for flowers.

And then, there are the issues of pesticides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The two biggest problems are the damage caused by toxic pesticides, which our workers are forced to use to grow the flowers, and the reliance on huge volumes of water.

PUREFOY: Growers say they're addressing this criticism. For example, by using rainwater and cutting down on pesticides.

HARTMUTT ROTCHER, VAN KLEEF FARM: Of course, we try and use the less toxic ones, and we're now going a step further and starting to use integrated pest management, which is using predatory bugs to eat the bugs that we don't want.

PUREFOY: Environmental concerns, along with rising fuel costs, are also moving them into the world of alternative energy.

ROTCHER: Previously, we were - we were heating with kerosene, with paraffin, the same stuff that jets run on, and it's got a lot more expensive in the past few years. It's also got environmentally unfriendly, because of the carbon dioxide emissions. Solar panels don't give any carbon dioxide emission.

PUREFOY: Almost 300 feet, or 87 meters in length, each of the six panels heats up the water and pumps it around the Kenyan greenhouses of Dutch- based company Van Kleef to keep temperatures steady.

Elsewhere, other flower farmers tapping into geothermal energy, using steam from deep underground to power turbines and warm their greenhouses. Other companies are also responding.

As global warming increases in significance on the world's agenda, Kenya's leading electric power company says that it shifted its sources from fossil fuel to geothermal and other alternative energy sources, which now compromises (sic) over 70 percent.

JOSEPH NG'ANG'A, DEPUTY MANAGING DIR.: When you compare the missions of these other alternatives, (inaudible) hands down, and you probably have no comparison, for instance, with coal.

PUREFOY: With an echo-friendly approach to help Kenya's flower industry along, it's a boost that is likely to bloom in Kenya for sometime to come.

Christian Purefoy, CNN, Naivasha, Kenya.


OKE: Thanks, Christian. That was blooming lovely. I sound like Eliza Doolitle, don't I, from "My Fair Lady".

And when we come back, a closer look at Africa's power problem and what needs to be done to light up the continent. Stay with us.



OKE: The world's largest coffee retailer is announcing plans to do business in Burundi. Starbucks says it will work with Burundi coffee farmers to develop and expand the industry there. The company has already partnered with coffee farmers in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya.

Nineteen African diamond-producing countries have come together to form the Diamond Producers Association. They want to increase benefication, meaning using the diamond industry to improve local economies by having the cutting and polishing done by locals. The association includes countries like Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Chevron Oil Company says they shut down operations in one of its stations in Nigeria to prevent vandalism. This after a group of women carrying machetes and clubs protested the delay in compensation payment for an oil spill. It's not clear if and when the station will reopen.


OKE: Good to see you again, you're watching INSIDE AFRICA. Today, we're taking a closer look at Africa's power problem.

While only a minority has access to basic electricity, the continent has enough resources to meet all of its energy needs. Think about this: The U.N. estimates that the hydroelectricity potential of the Congo River could provide three times as much power as Africa currently uses. And that's just the Congo region.

Africa, with home to some of the largest rivers in the world, including the Nile, the Niger and Volta, all mostly untapped sources of energy.

Elsewhere across the continent, you'll find oil, gas, coal, and of course, plenty of solar power, which is a very available source of energy on the continent. So, why are we not tapping into this potential, and what really takes to change the status quo? Isha Sesay spoke to World Bank director of energy, transport and water, Jamal Saghir, about the situation. Here is what he had to say.


JAMAL SAGHIR, WORLD BANK DIR., ENERGY AND WATER: Africa is definitely facing an energy crisis. The combined capacity of electricity generation in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding sub-Saharan Africa, is 32 gigawatts. This is equivalent to what one single country, like Poland, has right now, or Saudi Arabia or the Netherlands, which are around 30 gigawatts.

I think it has a lot of energy resources, especially in the hydropower sector, and they had a lot of other indigenous sectors. You have a lot of wind, you have a lot of renewable energy.

We need to tap the resources of Africa. I think that's where you have to have to work - to do much more investment.

What is needed, basically, if you would like to go from 20 percent access to energy right now to 100 percent access, in the next 20 or 25 years, or even before, investment of the equivalent to $11 billion per year are needed if you want to go. And we should go to get out Africa from the darkness that it's facing every day.

The lack of electricity in Africa is affecting economy growth in some country by 3 to 4 percent.

SESAY: As it's been said by analysts, that lack of access to energy is keeping Africans in utter poverty. I mean, you mentioned the lack of economic growth, but it goes beyond that, doesn't it? We're talking about schools, hospitals, as well as industry.

SAGHIR: We have no doubt. If you put a light in a village, the people can go to school, the mother can in the evening work with their kids. They can - we have noticed that education will increase, and yes, electricity has a direct impact on poverty reduction.

In the clinics that we have developed across Africa, it's very important to have electricity and water, two basic infrastructure issues as important as the health service, education service and other services.

So this is the backbone of economic development, to have sound energy services and infrastructure development to push Africa out of poverty.

If we continue what we call the business-as-usual approach, in investing only $2 billion per year in Africa energy access, by 2020 and 2030 we will still have around 1.4 billion people on our planet in general without access to electricity. In Africa, we will have 60 percent of the people without access to - to energy services.

So yes, we have a major issue of lack of investment in the power sector, in energy sector in general, and if we need to help Africa continue the growth that they have been going in the last few years, it's very important to put much more generation capacity in Africa than we have seen so far.

Another important data that you have to keep in mind -- the households with electric lamp has 100 times more light than a household with a kerosene lamp. In other words, this means children can read more, can take more time and can succeed in school. So, the link between electricity, education, health and economic development is a crucial as we talk about the economic development of sub-Saharan Africa.

SESAY: The situation is not one of just simply bringing electricity, bringing energy to Africa. It's complicated, isn't it, by the fact that if - how do you do that without impacting on the environment?

SAGHIR: What is very important is to ensure that any energy that is put toward the continent is - is clean energy, and has to be done in a sound environmental and social aspect. If Africa decided to use the potential hydropower, which has not been tapped at all -- let me give an example: 80 percent of the hydropower potential in the OECD countries had been harnessed. In sub-Saharan Africa, less than 10 percent of the hydropower has been harnessed.

However, if you would like to harness the hydropower potential in sub- Saharan Africa, it has to be done in a sound environmental way, (inaudible) taken into consideration, social consideration, and the communities to be - to be really listened to and take this into the design.

So, you are absolutely right. Environmental considerations are very important and should be looked as assets as we look at energy development of Africa.

And I think looking also at some of the renewable energy like geothermal in Kenya and other places, these are all potential sources that could have minimum environmental negative impact.


OKE: That was the World Bank director of energy, transport and water, Jamal Saghir, speaking to us earlier.

Now, while Africans try to increase their energy supply, something else could be working against them. Climate change is heating up, and in some cases, drying up the continent. When we come back, we'll take a closer look at the effects of global warming in Africa. See you soon.


OKE: Hello again. You're watching INSIDE AFRICA.

Scientists say that while Africa gives off less greenhouse gas than any other region in the world, it's the most vulnerable to the result: The effects of global warming. Just how to cut down greenhouse gases was the focus of last week's climate change summit in Thailand. The summit gathered scientists and officials from around 100 countries. The third gathering of the intra-governmental panel on climate change concluded that the world has the means to fight climate change, but must act now to make a difference.

It also warned that without action, the world was likely to see a rise in hunger, droughts, heat waves, and sea levels, consequences that in some cases are already a reality on the continent.


OKE: Life in the Red Sea -- an explosion of color and life. But for how long? Experts say the beautiful coral riffs of Egypt's Red Sea coast are gradually succumbing to climate change.

HANS VEROLME, WWF GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRAM: The water has warmed almost one degree Celsius over the past century, and that has led to corals becoming uncomfortably hot. And they as a result have started to die. And that is really bad, not just for the reef itself, but for the fish that breed in the reef.

OKE: Elsewhere, there are other more obvious effects of climate change, but most experts agree that Africa is the continent most at risk and hardest hit.

JONATHAN PERSHINGS, WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE: Invariably, it's the poorest people in the world who have the worst impact. So, what you're seeing is a significant increase in impact, and unfortunately, the people in Africa are likely to see some of the worst of those.

OKE: Among some of the warning signs already noted by the U.N. and World Resources Institute are heat waves and periods of unusually warm weather.

Between 1985 and 1995, Southern Africa noted its warmest and driest decade on record.

The spreading of disease. In 2002, hundreds of people died from malaria in the Kenya highlands, which have previously been unexposed. Experts say rising temperatures sends mosquitoes further north, bringing with them a host of different illnesses.

The melting of glaciers is another warning sign. More than 80 percent of Kilimanjaro's ice has disappeared in the last century.

Droughts and fires. Over 4 million people were affected when Kenya experienced its worst drought in 60 years, and that was back in 2001.

And the warming of the world's ocean - a change that affects not only the world's oceans, but fishermen, tourism industries, weather patterns, and a host of other things.

Which takes us right back to Egypt's Red Sea coral reefs. Because while this colorful life faces other human threats, it's perhaps the indirect effect from climate change that in the end will leave the biggest footprint.


OKE: Earlier, we got some extra perspective on just how this climate change will affect the continent in the future.


MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: This story in Africa as far as global warming is really about water, water and water. Large parts of the continent are projected to get drier - in other words, to experience less precipitation, and also less run-off, which means there's less water available for drinking, and less water available for agriculture.

Now, mind you, this is in a region of the world where many people already suffer malnutrition and episodically starvation because there isn't enough food to go around.

So, that although the projections for the world as a whole in the future are for sufficient food on average, these are parts of the world where starvation occurs today, even though there is enough food for everybody in theory.

So, this situation can only get worse in the future, as global warming puts stress on water, reduces the availability for agriculture. Therefore, that, combined with excess heat, will reduce the productivity, particularly of cereal grains, and there will be less food available. And I'm afraid in many regions, that means more malnutrition, and at least occasionally, people dying from starvation.

SESAY: I knew that in a country like China, and when you look at that industry that's run predominantly on coal, that's certainly exacerbating its situations and the pollution that it's creating and it's putting out. What about in Africa, what part is industry playing?

OPPENHEIMER: Africa itself plays only a small role in terms of global emissions, and tiny compared to places like the U.S., or China, or the E.U., or Russia, which have large fossil fuel combustion. There is a lot of coal burning that creates carbon dioxide that puts greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, that trap heat and are going to warm Earth. This is a classic situation of the relatively rich parts of the world putting an extra burden on the relatively poor parts of the world that can do relatively nothing about it.

SESAY: What can Africa - what should Africa be doing for its part?

OPPENHEIMER: Africa needs to prepare for a future that could be drier, could have less water available for drinking and agriculture, will be hotter, and therefore there'll be pressure on a variety of resources. They have to try to come to grips with the disorganization in some places and realize that the situation is only going to get worse unless they try to plan for a future which uses water more efficiently, which has cropping which is able to resist additional heat and additional dryness, and in general tries to make itself resilient for adaptation to climate change.

Unfortunately, in poor countries, there is a limited capability to do that, so I think the solution lies more with the wealthy countries, both helping Africa to prepare for adaptation, but more importantly, reducing their emissions of the greenhouse gases.


OKE: It's almost time for us to go, but first, let's have a quick look at what some African editorials are saying about energy and climate change.

South Africa's e-Africa writes: "Even with dramatic pollution costs, temperatures will continue to rise. The only solution is for Africa to adopt a more proactive mind-set. We must focus on modernizing agriculture and building sustainable irrigation systems needed to survive the coming heat wave."

Johannesburg "Business Day" says: "With moves towards cleaner energy, carbon capture and storage, investment in green technologies and authentic green branding, new fortunes will be made and lost. Adapting to climate change tests our creativity and courage, but the pioneers will win."

And Kampala's "New Vision" had this to say about Uganda's reliance on foreign aid. "The power crisis is only one of many other crises this country may face, for which there will be no urgency in Western capitals. We need to activate and exercise instruments for local resource mobilization to wean away permanently from aid."

And that is it for INSIDE AFRICA. Thank you for watching. Please let INSIDE AFRICA be your window to the continent. And I have to say, (inaudible), watch it on the Internet, which you can also do. Click on to, look for the INSIDE AFRICA page. If you've just missed the show, you can watch it all over again.

I'm Femi Oke. Until the next time, take care.



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