Development of wind energy in Africa

Existing wind energy output in Africa remains dominated by north African countries, with south and east Africa poised to gain ground. Wind energy’s prospects in west Africa remain limited. This is one of the conclusions of a comprehensive study on the development of wind energy in Africa, by among others Dr Emelly Mutambatsere, principal regional economist, at the African Development Bank (AdB).

As a co-author of the study she says that in the initial stages of the wind market development, donor financing is very visible and as the market matures, both sponsors and financiers enter the market, from public entities and grant financing, to public-private/private entities and non-concessional financing. “However, the market has not yet developed to the point where it can be fully funded by the private sector, therefore development finance institutions remain major players.”

By the end of 2011 the developed potential on the continent saw a strong concentration of wind energy capacity in three north African countries, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. “Egypt held half of the continent’s total installed capacity, followed by Morocco with 40% and Tunisia with 5%. Outside of north Africa, there is commercial capacity in Cape Verde, and limited capacity in South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius, Eritrea and Mozambique.”

She continues, “The wind energy market’s outlook is also noteworthy. Our survey produced a comprehensive sample of about 60 on-going and planned wind energy projects on the continent. This places south and east African markets in the lead in terms of market growth. South Africa alone is expected to contribute a third of the wind energy capacity currently under development or planned in Africa; and Kenya is making significant strides toward developing what is poised to be the continent’s largest wind power project. This trend is attributed to increased strategic focus on wind in these regions, whilst in the north market development has been stalled by socio-economic instability.”

According to Mutambatsere, Africa’s wind energy market has developed at a pace similar to that observed in leading markets at the early stages of their industry development. She adds, “Despite this progress and the presence of significant potential on the continent, we should not expect wind to take over conventional energy resources in terms of share in the electricity generation mix, as key structural characteristics of the market affect both efficacy in dealing with the energy access challenge, and competitiveness of wind, relative to non-renewable energy resources.”

The report states that the business environment is important for the development of a wind energy market. Mutambatsere says, “We observe that fast growing wind energy markets have benefited from strong political will, supported by strategic policy direction and an enabling business environment, including industry specific legislation.”

The report reflects opinions of the authors, and not those of the African Development Bank group’s management, board of directors or the countries they represent.