REGION profile


With energy demand growing twice as fast as the global average, Africa has the opportunity to be the first continent to develop its economy using renewable and efficient energy.
Hydropower installed capacity
38 GW (2020)
Pumped storage installed capacity
3 GW (2020)
Generation by hydropower
139 TWh (2020)

With energy demand growing twice as fast as the global average, Africa has a unique opportunity to adopt latest innovative technologies and take action to shape a sustainable energy future.

Despite being home to 17 per cent of the world’s population, it accounts for just 4 per cent of global power. An estimated 579 million people remain without access to electricity in sub- Saharan Africa. The United Nations predicts that Africa’s population will double by 2050, amounting to approximately 2.5 billion people with electricity demand expected to triple by 2040.

The 750 MW Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Project in Zambia is scheduled to be commisioned by the end of 2021, Credit: Norconsult AS.

By 2050, two in every five children will be born in Africa with the urban population expected to nearly triple to 1.34 billion. The West African power pool (WAPP) region will represent one-third of the continent’s total population in 2070, with over 1.5 billion people.

Hydropower remains the continent’s primary renewable resource in Africa at over 38 GW of installed capacity, with 971 MW added in 2020. It accounts for over 70 per cent of the renewable electricity share and about 16 per cent of the total electricity share. Hydropower’s share of total electricity is predicted to increase to more than 23 per cent by 2040 following efforts to achieve universal access and a low carbon energy transition.

Sustainable energy is at the forefront of national development plans across the continent. Out of the 53 African nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement on climate change, 45 contain quantified renewable energy targets.

These efforts are aligned with the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), a continent wide initiative that intends to harness Africa’s vast renewable energy potential and identifies a need for high-capacity transmission networks. The North-South Transmission Corridor from Egypt to South Africa in particular presents priorities for transmission networks and large-scale hydropower generation projects.

While Africa seeks higher penetration of variable renewable energy, such as solar and wind, the need for new hydropower development as well as modernisation of the existing hydropower fleet has become more pressing in the region. For example, the power system master plans of the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) and the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) involve substantial hydropower capacity.

The African economy has been impacted by Covid-19 lockdown measures, but the effects have not been uniform across the region. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) reports that countries such as Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo experienced higher electricity demand in 2020 compared to previous years, mainly thanks to recent progress in expanding energy deployment.

Rusumo Falls, Rwanda, Credit: Andritz Hydro.

On the other hand, in countries where almost the entire population had access to energy, such as South Africa and Tunisia, electricity demand decreased with respect to 2019 levels. Moreover, despite the disruptions and changes caused by Covid-19, hydropower has shown resilience with its share being increased in the electricity mix in several countries.

In Angola, the 2,071 MW Lauca hydropower station became fully operational in December 2020. It is the second largest hydropower plant in Africa, after the 2,075 MW Cahora Bassa power station in Mozambique, and represents more than half of the country’s hydropower capacity.

In Guinea, two units of the Souapiti hydropower project (225 MW out of 450 MW) became operational in November 2020. The project is expected to be fully operational by end 2021 and is supported by China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In Ethiopia, work continued on the 6,350 MW Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The project has come under pressure from both Egypt and Sudan, with Ethiopia asked to commit to a legally binding agreement on the amount of water retained in the reservoir. Elsewhere, part of the Genale Dawa basin development, the 254 MW Genale-Dawa III multipurpose dam also connected to the electricity grid in February 2020.

In Uganda, the 600 MW Karuma hydropower project has reached 98 per cent completion and is expected to become operational in May 2021. The government’s grid development plans have forecasted that total electricity demand will more than double by 2030, with hydropower accounting for almost 70 per cent of the generation mix.

In Zambia, the 750 MW Kafue Gorge Lower hydropower project is expected to be commissioned in 2021. In addition, the 2,400 MW Batoka Gorge hydropower project, jointly owned by Zambia and Zimbabwe, will begin construction in 2021 and is expected to generate more than 10,000 GWh a year on completion.

In Nigeria, two multipurpose hydropower projects – Gurara (30 MW) and Kashimbila (40 MW) – reached a concession from Federal Government. These projects are part of the Nigerian government’s priority actions and its 2030 targets to increase the grid’s installed capacity to at least 32,000 MW, of which 14,000 MW will be from hydropower. The most significant hydropower project under Africa Developments Africa developments development is the 3,050 MW Mambila hydropower project, that will commence construction in 2021 and, once completed, will be the largest power station in Nigeria.

In Morocco, the 350 MW Abdelmoumen pumped storage project has reached 40 per cent completion and is scheduled for commissioning in the first half of 2022. In addition, the 300 MW Ifahsa pumped storage project is under construction and is expected to be commissioned in 2025. These projects are part of Morocco’s strategy to meet the country’s renewable energy targets while managing peaks in demand.

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