Insufficient and Unreliable Supply

Nearly 63 % of COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite’s population – approximately 354 million people, lacked access to electricity in 2009.  This percentage varies greatly across countries in the region.  In Egypt, Liberia and Mauritius more than 99% of the population have access to electricity while in Uganda and Malawi access to electricity is as low as 9 % [1].

Commercial customers in the region, furthermore, wait an average of 127 days from application to connection and complete up to 8 administrative procedures [2].  In many cases, long waiting times reflect chronic energy shortages and a rationing of new connections. 

The Tripartite region generated a mere 472 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity in 2009 for its population of 574 million people.  This was only slightly more electricity than the 458 TWh generated by Brazil for its 199 million people - only 34% of the Tripartite’s population in 2009[3].

Not only is the electricity generation capacity relatively limited, but is it also unevenly distributed across the Tripartite region.  If the major producers of South Africa and Egypt are excluded, the total electricity generation for the region falls to only 109 TWh, equivalent to the electricity produced by Argentina, with a population of only 40 million[4].

To make matters worse, as much as 25 percent of the region’s installed capacity is not operational due to ageing plants, lack of maintenance and other reasons[5].  Practically this means that of the region’s potential 95 gigawatt (GW) of electrical output, only 71,25 GW is actually available at any given time.[6]  Unreliable supply and frequent transmission interruptions are closely related to the region’s low installed capacity and electricity generation.  Power outages dampen economic growth by lowering firm productivity and by causing additional expenses, such as investments in back-up generators and damage to machinery and equipment.  According to the World Bank enterprise surveys, businesses in the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite region lose an average of 6,3% of their sales due to power outages.  In Burundi and Tanzania

firms experienced power outages for a record 144 and 63 days respectively[7].

Rich, underutilised resources

The Tripartite region is endowed with abundant energy resources and a wide variety of primary energy endowments, including rich renewable resources, despite insufficient and unreliable electricity supply.  These resources are unevenly distributed across member states of the Tripartite region.

The Tripartite region has an abundance of coal as well as large oil reserves.  Over 20 % of the world’s recoverable coal reserves are situated in Southern Africa, primarily in the countries of Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.   In 2010, South Africa alone produced 280 million Short Tons of coal and was ranked 7th coal producing country in the world [1].

Among Tripartite member states, furthermore, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, South Africa and the DRC are some of the top oil-producing nations in Africa while Angola is ranked the 15th oil producing country in the world.  Angola alone produced 1,9 million barrels per day in 2009 – 18 % of Africa’s total production for that year [2] and almost enough to provide for the total daily oil consumption of the entire Tripartite region during the same period [3].

Major new on- and off-shore oil reserves are being discovered in the Tripartite region, and a number of pipelines are being planned.  In February 2012 Tullow Oil signed a deal with France’s Total and China’s CNOOC to sell two-thirds of its East African oil assets in Uganda’s Lake Albertine Rift Basin for US$2.9 billion.  The Albertine Basin is estimated to contain reserves of 3.5 billion barrels of oil.  Production is expected to start soon and could reach 150,000 to 350,000 barrels of oil per day.

Africa also has vast renewable energy resources, including about one-tenth of the world’s total hydro-power potential – an estimated 937 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year [4].  Much of this potential is located in the Tripartite Region – specifically in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Angola, Madagascar and Mozambique [5].  The DRC’s potential hydro capacity is estimated to be as high as 150 GW [6].  Ethiopia's hydro-power potential, second only to the DRC’s, has been estimated at 45 GW, of which approximately 30 GW is economically feasible [7].  This combined hydro-power potential of 180 GW is more than double the total regional electricity production of 2009 [8]

Only about 5% of Africa’s economically viable hydro-power potential was exploited in 2008 [7].  However, a number of hydro-power generation projects are being planned in the Tripartite region, currently.  On the Zambezi River alone there are two upgrading projects (Kariba North Bank and Cahora Bassa), three new hydro-power projects (Lower Kafue, Mpanda Ncua, and Itezhi Tezhi) and one speculative hydro-power project proposal (Batoka Gorge).  Large hydro-power plants are also being planned at Inga in DR Congo and Millennium Dam in Ethiopia.

Natural gas continues to grow in importance and is a resource found throughout the region.  In 2010, 6 countries from the Tripartite region produced a total of 2.9 Trillion Cubic Feet (Tcf) of natural gas – 42 % of Africa’s total natural gas production in 2009.  Proven reserves of 2 Trillion Cubic Feet (Tcf) and more are located in Egypt (59 Tcf), Libya (54 Tcf), Angola (10 Tcf), Sudan (3 Tcf) Namibia (2 Tcf) and Rwanda (2 Tcf) [8]. 

According to Mozambique's National Oil Institute, ENI East Africa also recently discovered natural gas in the Rovuma Basin in Mozambique, with potential reserves of 7,5 Tcf.  The new discovery increases the potential reserves of natural gas found in the area to 30 Tcf.  Another recent discovery of natural gas was made at the Zafarani exploration well in Tanzania’s India Ocean.  Norway’s oil and gas company, Statoil, along with Exxon Mobil, announced that, so far, reserves were estimated at 4,9 Tcf - worth approximately US$1.2 billion. 

The Tripartite region has rich geothermal potential - concentrated mostly in eastern Africa, with fragmented spots of high intensity potential spread across the continent.  There is enormous potential in the East African Rift Valley - 3,700 miles in length and spanning several countries in the Tripartite region, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia.  Kenya has been Africa’s geothermal leader, being the first to develop geothermal energy plants on the continent.  Studies indicate an estimated geothermal potential of more than 7 GW in Kenya, of which 0,2 GW is currently being exploited – providing for 22% of all electricity consumed by the country.  Kenya plans to produce 5 GW of electricity from geothermal energy by 2030 [9].


Insufficient and Unreliable Supply Notes

[1]  Averages based on available data for 19 / 26 Tripartite member states.  Data does not include Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Rwanda, Seychelles and Swaziland.  Source: (For data on percentage of population with access to electricity)  World Bank Data | Indicator:  Access to Electricity & (For data on number of people living without electricity) The International Energy Agency Access to Electricity database 

[2] 8 Administrative procedures have to be completed before an electricity connection can be established in Angola.  Across the Tripartite region, an average of 5 procedures have to be completed.  Source:  World Bank Doing Business - Topic: Getting Electricity Database and Pilot Study.

[3]  All population figures as in 2009.  SourceWorld Bank | World Development Indicators

[4] US energy Information Administration Countries Data Portal

[5] World Bank (2011) | Africa’s Energy Infrastructure  - Investment, Integration & Efficiency

[6] US energy Information Administration Data Portal | Africa Region – Total Energy Capacity Indicator

[7] Based on latest available data – ranging between 2006 – 2010.  Source:  World Bank Data - Indicator:  Value lost to electrical outages |


Rich, underutilised resources Notes

[1] US energy Information Administration Countries Data Portal - South Africa

[2] US energy Information Administration Countries Portal – Angola

[3] The Tripartite region consumed roughly 2 million barrels per day in 2009 | SourceUS energy Information Administration

[4] World Bank (2011) | Africa’s Energy Infrastructure  - Investment, Integration & Efficiency

[5] World Bank (2011) | Africa’s Energy Infrastructure  - Investment, Integration & Efficiency

[6] Expo Times (2003) Tapping Africa’s Epicenter of Energy

[7] Ministerial Conference on Water for Agriculture and Energy in Africa (2008): Hydro-power Resource Assessment of Africa - The Challenges of Climate Change

[8]  US energy Information Administration Countries Data Portal

[9] US Energy Information Administration | International Energy Outlook 2011

[10] Geothermal Development Company | The Steam | Issue 1 (January – March 2010)


Early Closure of TMSA Programme: The Secretary of State of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has decided to terminate its financial contribution to TradeMark Southern Africa (TMSA), as announced on 4 December 2013. As DFID is the sole financier of the TMSA programme of support to the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite, TMSA will officially be closed from 17 March 2014 instead of 31 October 2014. For more information about the TMSA closure, and for a summary of some of the more notable successes of the Tripartite achieved with TMSA support, please click here