Economist reports on Africa’s continuing lack of electricity.

Without electric, economic development stagnates. There was an attempt at building electrical infrastructure in the 1970s and 80s, but corruption, autocracy, and abuses took their toll and returned Africa to darkness.


SEEN from space, Africa at night is unlit—as dark as all-but empty Siberia. With nearly 1 billion people, Africa accounts for over a sixth of the world’s population, but generates only 4% of global electricity. Three-quarters of that is used by South Africa, Egypt and the other countries along the north African littoral.

I always enjoyed the way the Nile River lights up at night. There are small clusters of civilization near coastal Nigeria and South Africa.


Africa needs infrastructure, but more importantly, it needs good government and market structures to maintain infrastructure:

The need for more power stations in the rest of the continent has long been recognised, but most of the attempts at electrification in the 1970s and the 1980s failed. In some countries, dictators pillaged power stations for parts and fuel. In others, power stations were built but not maintained. Turbines were run at full capacity until they broke, then were abandoned. By some counts, only 17 of Nigeria’s 79 power stations, many dating from this period, are still working

This produces something like an electrical Malthusianism:

Africa’s relatively healthy economic growth of recent years begets factories and shopping centres—and power cuts galore. Whenever demand outstrips supply, the lights go out

Africa’s economy has been doing reasonably well, but the lack of electricity continues to stunt their potential. Instability and lack of security leave electrical power stations and power lines vulnerable to disruption attacks in the event of war or crime. Worse, no one bothers to maintain what they do have running.

Africa needs ultra-cheap decentralized power – something which can be provided by coal. When Westerners give “aid” they try to force inefficient sources of “green” power like solar or wind rather than something Africans can afford and actually use.