Africa is a big continent with a population of over 1.3 billion, and many countries are at different stages of development from economic and energy access perspectives. Due to rising urbanization, population growth, and energy demand, the opportunities for renewable energy use in cities are increasingly recognized in Sub-Saharan Africa. At least 19 cities, including Cape Town and Durban (both South Africa) and Kampala (Uganda), have in place renewable energy targets, and 34 cities have policies. Common drivers for renewables in the region include reducing poverty and inequality (including by addressing energy access and energy poverty) and boosting the resilience and reliability of power systems. The key drivers in the region include commitments to the Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), one of which is access to clean and affordable energy.
In 2021, the off-grid solar sector continued to experience impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, although signs of recovery were apparent. Sales of off-grid solar products totaled 7.4 million units for the year, with around two-thirds of the devices purchased in cash and one-third using the “pay-as-you-go” (PAYGo) model. In total, more than 100 million people were benefiting from improved energy access from these products (including 14 million people accessing Tier 2ii services), saving an estimated USD 12.5 billion in energy expenditures and generating USD 6.7 billion in income.
Within Africa, three major countries are noteworthy for their progress in economic development and their impressive achievements in renewable energy. These countries are Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa, which are now the most vibrant markets for renewable energy in the whole of Africa. These countries are well on target to have a higher than 30% contribution of renewable energy in their power systems by 2030. Morocco is one of the few countries in the world on track to actually meet its Paris climate commitments.
The bulk of the sales (6.1 million units) were portable lanterns (0-3 watt peak, Wp) and small solar devices such as phone chargers (3-10 Wp), which together represent 83% of all off-grid solar products. In addition, nearly 1.3 million solar-home systems (above 10 Wp) were sold during the year, representing 17% of total sales. The vast majority of the solar home systems (more than 84%) were sold under the PAYGo model, whereas the vast majority of portable lanterns were sold as cash products. PAYGo companies providing solar home systems traditionally have focused on basic services such as lighting and phone charging. Increasingly, however, companies are expanding their offerings to bigger systems that power a broader range of key appliances, such as televisions, fans, refrigeration units, and solar water pumps. Sales of these appliances in the first half of 2021 totaled 421,000 units, the lowest level since 2018, as the industry has been affected by supply issues, shortages, and price increases.
Market dynamics vary across regions and countries. East Africa was the leading market globally in 2021, with nearly 4 million units of off-grid solar products sold, dominated by Kenya (1.7 million) and Ethiopia (439,103). While Kenya’s sales have been relatively steady since 2019, Ethiopia’s have fallen continuously since 2019 due to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, and monetary devaluation. Elsewhere in the region, sales grew substantially in Zambia (up 77%), Rwanda (30%), and Tanzania (9%). For key solar-powered appliances, demand fell in most countries except Mozambique and Zambia, where sales were up 29% and +101%, respectively.
The West African market is much smaller (around the same size as Kenya’s market) but has shown solid growth, ranking second globally with around 1 million off-grid solar products and devices sold in 2021.57 Nigeria is the region’s largest market, with sales totaling 628,000.58 The market has shown strong, steady growth since 2019, with sales up 77% between the first and second quarters of that year.59 Burkina Faso in West Africa’s second-largest market for off-grid solar products (85,113 devices sold in 2021), followed by Benin (71,240 devices) and Senegal, which recently enforced a value-added tax (VAT) exemption on solar products.60 While these markets are in a growth phase, others in the region – including Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Ghana – are shrinking, with low demand.61
One of the big opportunities to propel or bridge Africa to better and cleaner forms of energy is mini-grids. Looking at East Africa for example, the top five markets for affiliated off-grid solar systems in 2019 (by sales volume) were Kenya, India, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Nigeria. Sales expanded the most in Ethiopia (up 108% to 1.01 million units) and Kenya (up 55% to 1.97 million units). Growth in Kenya is attributed mainly to rising customer demand for solar home systems and to the country’s conducive sales environment, resulting from an adequate regulatory framework and from the impetus provided by the ongoing World Bank-funded Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project (KOSAP).
Mini or microgrids are seen as a cost-effective and practical way of facilitating basic services like lighting and refrigeration for homes, schools, and hospitals. The technology enablers include solar PV and lithium-ion battery storage units.
Longer-term, there are plans for cross-border interconnections and trade to enable large-scale renewable energy to be connected and available. It is important to ensure that anchor loads also develop in terms of economic development and growth, which in Africa will also be spurred by digital transformation.
Synergies between hydropower and variable renewable energy sources can help to make the overall electricity system more flexible, both nationally and regionally. Wind power offers strong synergies with hydropower across the region, while solar PV has emerged as a key complementary technology. In Angola, Ethiopia, Namibia, and Zambia, for example, solar PV generation during the day is complemented by hydropower generation at night.
In DNV’s Energy Transition Outlook, we also expect a significant increase in natural gas production and usage as a transition fuel. It is important that this gas has the lowest GHG emission footprint by harnessing advanced technology at the outset in terms of carbon capture and minimizing methane release or flaring.
With advancements in carbon capture and storage, as well as blue and green hydrogen, we also expect Africa to leapfrog the way in which it uses its natural gas resources as a transition fuel.
By 2100 all the world’s biggest cities will be in Africa
Throughout the course of human history, the biggest cities have always seemed impossibly large. For many millennia, it was almost unfathomable for a city to sustain more than 1 million residents. In fact, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the largest cities globally, such as London and Beijing, were able to consistently hold populations beyond that impressive mark.
Despite this, in the modern era, we’ve quickly discovered that a city of 1 million people isn’t remarkable at all. In China alone, there are now over 100 cities with a million people today – and as such, our mental benchmark for what we consider to be a “big city” has changed considerably from past times.
Just like a city the size of modern Tokyo was hard to imagine for someone living in the 19th century, it can be an extremely difficult thought experiment for us to visualize what future megacities will look like. Researchers at the Global Cities Institute have crunched the numbers to provide us with one view of the potential megacities of the future, extrapolating a variety of factors to project a list of the 101 largest cities in the years 2010, 2025, 2050, 2075, and 2100.
The largest megacities by 2100
According to the report, human geography will look completely unfamiliar by the turn of the century.
Here is a list of the 20 largest megacities projected for 2100:
By the year 2100, it’s estimated that 13 of the world’s largest megacities will be located in Africa. Meanwhile, India will hold three of them – and there will be zero of them found in the Americas, China, or Europe.
Here’s a final look at the top three:
#1. Lagos, Nigeria
- Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, is expected to push the limits of how big a metropolis can get. Already, Lagos has seen explosive growth over the past few decades and is growing so fast that no one really knows how many people live there. Over 2,000 people emigrate to the city every day, and current population estimates vary widely from 11 to 21 million inhabitants. Either way, by the turn of the century, Lagos is projected to have a population north of 88 million.
#2. Kinshasa, DRC
- Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo is projected to be the second-largest city in the world with a population of 83 million.
#3: Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
- Dar Es Salaam, a city on the coast of Tanzania, has a population of just 4.4 million today. By 2100, its population is projected to jump by a whopping 1,588%, putting the total at 74 million inhabitants.
This shows the sheer expansion in population and with-it consumption for the African continent with a focus on emerging mega cities. In order for this growth to be viable, sustainable energy and digital transformation for smart durable cities need to be adopted from the outset to ensure manageable growth. The future of Africa will impact the future of the world in terms of global economic development, the environment, and future climate change in the world.
Digital technologies, such as advanced planning algorithms, sensors, computing power, algorithms, etc, will allow optimization in terms of energy and water usage per unit of economic growth and also the carbon footprint of that energy use. This will be combined with the latest deployment of renewable energy and energy-efficient design thinking. A digital economy will help Africa leapfrog the ‘dirtier’ industrialization progression that happened in Europe, America, and China in the past.
Therefore, in the short-term mini-grids are a step in this journey because they leverage clean energy, harness digital control, and enable Africans to use other digital technologies, such as data centers, computers, communications, software, etc, to help them build a digital economy early on transforming trade, transport, health, and education. These technologies and learnings can then be leveraged for the future mega cities most of which will be in Africa in the coming century.