At a glance
Africa has the world’s fastest growing population, yet access to clean, secure, and affordable, energy services has not kept pace with the continent’s expanding needs despite the continent having the largest percentage of untapped hydropower potential in the world. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Angola, Sudan, Congo and Madagascar, have all been identified as having substantial untapped potential.
Hydropower, among other renewables, could support Africa’s energy sector expansion in a way that is compatible with both the continent’s own development goals and global demand for renewable energy and reach climate objectives. Indeed, the huge increase in solar power in particular, Africa has 60 per cent of the world’s solar potential and the technology could provide 30 per cent of its power by 2050, will increase the demand for energy storage to make the most efficient use of this valuable resource.
Africa had a significant year in terms of hydropower development, over 1 GW of hydropower capacity was installed in nine countries across the continent and large-scale projects are underway to provide affordable and dispatchable electricity.
60 per cent of the hydropower installed capacity in the region is over 20 years old so modernisation efforts are important to maintain and where possible, improve access to clean and reliable energy. To help address this, the AfDB has implemented the Africa Hydropower Modernisation Program, supported by IHA. This programme provides significant market opportunity for rehabilitation of Africa’s existing hydropower plants and to increase generation capacity at a low cost, and with relatively short lead times and minimal environmental impact.
Foreign investment has been instrumental to the development of new projects in the region, from countries such as China, Canada, the United Kingdom and Norway. Within the continent, the private sector is beginning to finance projects for the first time, as seen in Uganda, Gabon and Cameroon. While this is an encouraging trend, unlocking more finance for sustainable hydropower remains key to Africa’s energy future.
As of August 2022, Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) began generating electricity from its second turbine, which has a capacity of 275 MW, bringing the dam’s current operational capacity to 750 MW. Once completed, it will have 13 operating turbines, with an expected capacity of 5 GW, making it the largest power plant in Africa. Ethiopia’s exploitable potential is over 30 GW, with roughly 10 per cent being developed, with the GERD as the leading project to be developed.
The final three units of the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Station in Zambia have been commissioned, with a total capacity of 750 MW. The five turbines were completed in different stages, with the final turbine becoming operational in March 2023. Built by PowerChina’s subsidiary, Sinohydro, the station is the first of its size in the country and is currently the biggest single infrastructure construction project in Zambia.
During construction, the project created 15,000 jobs for locals and drove the development of industries across Zambia. Now that is it operational, it will supply power to Zambians, as well as exporting electricity to Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia.
Guinea has doubled its hydropower production in the nation after the Souapiti hydroelectric facility commissioned the roller-compacted concrete gravity dam equipped with four turbines, totalling 450 MW. The project is co-owned by the Ministry of Energy and Environment of the Republic of Guinea and the operator Société de Gestion et d’Exploitation de Souapiti (SOGES).
The Gouina hydroelectric power plant in Mali has been commissioned by the Senegal River Basin Development Organisation, an organisation formed by Mali, Senegal, Guinea and Mauritania that jointly manages the Senegal River and its drainage basin. 85 per cent of the US$460m 140 MW run-of-river project was funded by the Export-Import Bank of China.
Mali currently has 756 MW of hydropower capacity under development.
In Madagascar, the 28 MW Farahantsana hydroelectric power station was commissioned by the project developer, Tozzi Green Madagascar, and is the largest facility to date in the country. It is operational and the facility provides 6 per cent of Madagascar’s installed capacity, with its four 7 MW Francis turbines.
Madagascar has a technically feasible hydropower potential of 180,000 GWh, yet less than one per cent has been developed so far. Right now, 162 MW of installed hydropower capacity is producing 61 per cent of the nation’s electricity. Sahofika is a 192 MW hydropower project that it still on its permitting stage with an expected commission date in 2024. It is planned to be located on Onive river/basin in Antananarivo. The power plant, including the associated 220 kV transmission line, are being financed by the AfDB.
Two hydropower plants were commissioned in Uganda, adding 21.8 MW of power to the country’s energy mix. Serengeti Energy’s run-of-river Nyamwamba II power plant produces 7.8 MW and Kikagati Power Company Ltd. developed the Kikagati Hydropower Plant producing 14 MW.
An additional 15 MW of power was added to Burundi’s electricity grid by the Ruzibazi hydropower plant, which was handed to the government of Burundi by the Chinese company Sinohydro.
Burundi’s Jiji and Mulembwe Hydropower Plant Development Project is set to be completed in 2025 with a capacity of 48 MW, which will double the energy power generation in the country. Additionally, the Burundian government approved a project to build two hydroelectric power stations on the Mulembwe and Ruvyironza rivers. These facilities will inject 10.65 MW into the local electricity grid and will be built by Songa Energy.
The Mushishito-Rukarara V Hydropower Plant was inaugurated in June 2022, adding 5.5 MW to Rwanda’s electricity grid. Omnihydro developed the US$31.1m project that will connect over 175,000 homes with clean energy and will contribute to the country’s ambition of 100 per cent electricity for all.
In 2022 the first private hydroelectric power plant under 5 MW was commissioned in the village of Mbakou in Cameroon, funded by the French Global Environment Fund. This project is part of a bigger plan aimed to unlock the potential for smaller independent power producers in Cameroon.
Cameroon will see significant hydropower development once the 420 MW Nachtigal hydroelectric power plant in Nachtigal is operational in 2024, which is projected to increase the country’s electricity production by 30 per cent. The Nachtigal Hydro Power Company is implementing the project with a consortium made up of Electricité de France, IFC and the State of Cameroon.
Additionally, British firm Savannah Energy has signed an agreement with the Cameroon government to develop the 75 MW Bini a Warak Hydroelectric Project (the ‘Bini Project’) in the country’s northern region. It is expected to increase current on-grid electricity generation capacity in northern Cameroon by over 50 per cent.
The Caculo Cabaça hydropower project is a 2 GW run-of-river hydroelectric facility under construction in the Kwanza Norte Province of Angola. The project is being developed by Angola’s Ministry of Energy and Water and is expected to be commissioned in 2024. Upon completion, Caculo Cabaça is expected to be the biggest hydroelectric facility in Angola, surpassing the Laúca hydroelectric power station. Chinese foreign investment helped finance the project, providing a US$4.1bn loan. Currently, Angola's exploitable potential is 12 GW, of which only 4 GW per cent is currently harnessed, is a focus for government infrastructure plans aimed at addressing increased electricity demand.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Angola, Sudan, Congo and Madagascar, have all been identified as having substantial untapped potential. The DRC, enriched by the Congo River, holds an exploitable hydropower potential of around 100 GW. However, socio-economic challenges have restricted exploitation to 3 per cent. The Government of the DRC has ambitious plans for the Inga III dam project; if this vision materializes, the DRC could transform into a key player in Africa's electricity industry.
The Ugandan government agreed to create a new, state-run company called the Uganda National Electricity Company Limited to manage the generation, transmission, and distribution segments of the electricity sector, consequently not renewing the contracts with Eskom. The government states this is an effort tprovide national control.
The planned Kerio Valley will be a 60 MW hydropower project on the Arror river basin in Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kenya. The project is currently in the permitting stage and is expected to be developed in a single phase with a commission date in late 2023.
The AfDB has approved finance for the Singrobo Hydropower project (44 MW) in Côte d’Ivoire. The project will include a 3.5 km transmission line and substation to connect the power generated to the existing grid. This project will contribute to the country’s net zero ambition, as it is projected to reduce Côte d’Ivoire’s emissions by 109,561 tonnes of CO2.
The Eswatini Electricity Company plans to conduct an environmental and social impact assessment and the associated environmental and social mitigation plan for the 10 MW expansion of the existing Maguga Hydropower plant (10 MW).
To scale up clean energy production capacity in Gabon, IFC, the Government of Gabon, Meridiam Infrastructure Africa Fund FIPS, Meridiam Infrastructure Africa Parallel Fund FIPS and the Fonds Gabonais d'Investissements Stratégiques, with the support of the Government of Canada, announced a financing package for the Kinguele Aval hydropower plant, the first independent power producer in Gabon.
The Kinguele Aval hydropower plant has an installed capacity of 35 MW and is expected to bring a low-cost clean power generation capacity to Gabon's capital Libreville. IFC expects the project to generate 203 GWh of electricity, amounting to approximately 9 per cent of the country’s current total output, enough to serve 32,000 customers.
Tunisian utility, Société Tunisienne de l’électricité et du gaz is planning to build a 400-600 MW PSH plant, for a 2029 commissioning date. Robust studies are being conducted on the topographical, geotechnical, environmental, social impact and grid connection before the development of the project. The cost of the studies is covered by the French Development Agency, the European Investment Bank, and the German Development Bank.
In Tanzania, there are several hydropower developments under development. The largest project is the Julius Nyerere hydropower facility with an expected capacity of 2 GW which will increase the country’s installed capacity to 3.7 GW.
In addition, other smaller hydropower plants are in the planning stages but are expected to produce 600 MW and after these plants are developed, hydropower will contribute over 4 GW to Tanzania’s energy mix.
A joint venture between Norway’s Norfund, Scatec, Electricité de France and British International Investment will develop a 350 MW Mpatamanga hydropower plant in Malawi. The project will increase security of supply, reduce energy shortages, and help secure the country against floods. Mpatamanga will supply electricity to approximately two million people and create 180,000 jobs. This joint venture will also develop the first tri-national Public-Private Partnership in Africa (Ruzizi III HPP) and Malawi’s largest power plant (Mpatamanga HPP) among others.
Another 350 MW hydroelectric facility will be built in Morocco. The Abdelmoumen PSH power plant (350 MW) will be developed by the Office National de l'Electricité et de l'Eau Potable, with Vinci Construction and Andritz Hydro. It is expected to be commissioned in 2023.
Mainstream Energy Limited was selected as the concessionaire for the 700 MW Zungeru hydropower plant in Nigeria. In another development, the National Council of Privatisation an external restructuring scheme proposed by KEPCO Energy Resources Nigeria Limited, the core investor in Egbin power plant. The approval enables the entity to boost its capacity to raise the required capital to double the existing capacity of the plant to 2.6 GW.
The proposed 600 MW Baynes Dam on the border between Angola and Namibia received additional support from the AfDB. The AfDB is funding further technical assistance to engage an independent panel of experts to review and validate all the design work according to international standards.
Egypt has a large undertaking in the coming years as it plans to replace 19 turbines at the Aswan High Dam and Aswan Low Dam, as Ethiopia starts producing electricity from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which itself is situated on a main tributary of the Nile River. The cost of rehabilitating the stations is estimated at US$48m, which will be financed through a loan from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development under an agreement signed with the German Development Bank.
Andritz has signed a contract with Electricité de France to rehabilitate two horizontal Francis turbines in the 20 MW Takamaka I hydropower plant on the island of La Réunion, set to be commissioned by June 2024.