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Africa adds 2GW hydropower capacity in 2023 but stark gap remains

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In Summary


  • The World Hydropower Outlook, due to be released in full, 12 June 2024, shows that hydropower capacity in Africa grew this year by 2GW, but just 10% of the continent’s potential is being realised.
  • Access to finance and infrastructural inadequacies are inhibiting further progress across a continent that lacks access to clean, secure and affordable energy and water
  • 60% of installed hydropower capacity in Africa is more than 20 years old
  • African energy leaders gather in Abuja this week to agree routes to bridging the gaps.

Africa is poised to harness the power of its water resources to drive sustainable development and economic growth through a transformative clean energy transition.

With only 10% of the continent’s hydropower potential harnessed, accelerating hydropower development has never been more urgent.

2023 saw nearly double the hydropower development from the previous year with 2GW installed across the continent. Key countries that heavily contributed to the development were Nigeria (740MW), Uganda (408.2MW), Democratic Republic of Congo (381.7MW) and Tanzania (261.7MW).

Public-private partnerships are facilitating the financing and development of major projects. Simultaneously, regional cooperation initiatives are gaining momentum, offering promising avenues for hydropower development. However, limited access to finance, volatility and governance issues inhibits further infrastructure development.

Recent studies commissioned by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the IHA show there is an urgent need for rehabilitating numerous hydropower plants across Africa and the AfDB is leading efforts to upgrade twelve hydropower plants with a US$1 billion investment.

Significant opportunity

The latest World Hydropower Outlook, a report by the IHA, shows that Africa has a significant opportunity for growth but urgently needs more global collaboration and investment.

“With significant solar power coming onto the African grids, it is imperative that Africa’s hydropower potential is realised to ensure that reliable electricity supply is balanced and readily available. The development of hydropower in Africa is not just about generating electricity; it’s about empowering communities, driving economic growth, and charting a sustainable path towards a clean energy future,” said Eddie Rich, CEO of IHA

Despite encouraging signals that governments, industry and financiers are developing renewable energies, there is still a considerable deficit in global capacity.

“By fostering strategic partnerships and pioneering investment frameworks, we can unlock the necessary capital to realise Africa’s hydropower potential. We need to turn aspirations into action, propelling Africa towards a future powered by clean, sustainable energy,” said Eng. Lamu Audu, Managing Director/CEO Mainstream Energy Solutions Limited and Vice-Chair of IHA.

The launch of the Africa section of the 2024 World Hydropower Outlook is a precursor to the release of the full report on 12 June 2024.

Highlights of the Africa release of the 2024 World Hydropower Outlook include: 

  • Africa has 42GW total installed hydropower capacity.
  • Hydropower is the backbone of electricity supply, providing 40% of the power in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 2GW added in 2023.
  • 3.4GW total pumped storage installed capacity.
  • Innovative storage solutions for grid stability will improve the inadequate infrastructure and technological constraints that hamper hydropower development and escalate renewable developments like wind and solar.
  • The challenge is to expand electricity supply to 50% higher by 2030 and 4x higher by 2050.
  • Off-taker creditworthiness is complicating project financing and causing delays.

Key policy recommendations included in World Hydropower Outlook:

  • Address the regulatory issues that impede private sector participation and investment.
  • Improve resilience and incorporating climate adaptation measures to climate change.
  • Establish finance and market mechanisms that reward flexibility to enable significant capital investments to unlock Africa’s hydropower potential.

Also Read

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