A recent report by Deloitte has predicted that sub-Saharan Africa will see a combined economic growth of around 5% over the next few years. The report, Sub-Saharan Africa Power Trends, however adds that this level of development is contingent upon substantial investments into infrastructure.
“The development of large capital projects needed to support the growth of the African economy and attract the required investment relies on robust planning, reliable funding, resilient operating structures and skills development,” the report states.
Installing a reliable supply of electricity across the continent is perhaps the greatest need, since an insufficient and intermittent power supply acts as a deterrent to investment in projects on the continent, says Mark Makanda of global fast-track power provider APR Energy.
“Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, massive opportunities for investment and growth are emerging. One example is Western Africa, where countries like Mali and Burkina Faso have seen considerable development driven by the growth in gold mining in the region. Similarly, in a number of countries in East Africa and Southern Africa, new oil-and-gas production and development of LNG infrastructure have opened up more construction opportunities that could spur economic growth,” Makanda says.
Makanda echoes the report in stating that the continent is still far from reaching its potential, in large part due to inadequate power transmission infrastructure, low generation capacity, low numbers of skilled workers and poor maintenance of existing power generation facilities and transmission lines.
“The African Development Bank in 2013 allocated $3 billion, in addition to the various governments and other institutions that have invested in African power projects on the continent. While this is arguably a positive development, one should keep in mind that constructing power generation capacity takes anywhere from three to ten years. Transmission infrastructure can take even longer, and in the time that it takes for these projects to come to fruition, investment in the construction, infrastructure and mining projects that are expected to drive Africa’s economy stagnates instead,” he adds.
The most viable solution to support near-term growth on the continent, Makanda says, is fast-track power generation. “Fast-track power solutions – using mobile power plants – can be installed and operational in 30-90 days, bringing guaranteed scalable power of 10MW to over 100MW, which is sufficient to power a small city. Deploying fast-track power to booming and burgeoning regions in Sub-Saharan Africa would quickly translate into additional investment, development and economic growth.”
APR Energy recently was awarded such a project in Benin, where it is providing 50MW of generation capacity to provide for the country’s energy requirements while permanent generation and transmission infrastructure is being installed.
Makanda also sees opportunities for Africa’s power pools to support regional growth. “With our fuel-flexible and power-dense mobile turbines, countries with access to low-cost LNG or LPG – Ghana, Mozambique and Namibia, for instance – could install enough generating capacity to meet local demand then export the excess power to neighboring countries,” Makanda says. “The development of regional power hubs and transmission infrastructure that could support cross-border power would transform the Southern African, West African and East African power pools from concepts into reality and make them drivers of economic growth across Sub-Saharan Africa.”
APR Energy is the world’s leading provider of fast-track mobile turbine power. The company’s fast, flexible and full-service power solutions provide customers with rapid access to reliable electricity when and where they need it, for as long as they need it. Combining state-of-the-art, fuel-efficient technology with industry-leading expertise, APR Energy’s scalable turnkey plants help run cities, countries and industries around the world, in both developed and developing markets.
“Economies simply do not grow in the dark, which is why it makes sense to make power available where it is needed, as soon as it is needed. Sub-Saharan Africa needs to mobilise as quickly as possible if it is going to take full advantage of the surge in investment opportunity, and the way to do that is with immediate generation capacity,” Makanda concludes.