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close this bookSustaining the Future. Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 p.)
close this folderPart 3: Environment and resource management
close this folderThe fuelwood/energy crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentPopulation and environmental concerns
View the documentThe primary energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa
View the documentProblems of the energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa
View the documentThe socio-economic implications of the fuelwood crisis
View the documentStrategies to combat the fuelwood crisis Strategies to combst the fuelwood crisis
View the documentNew and renewable energy development
View the documentConclusion
View the documentReferences

The primary energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa

Although SSA is rich in modern energy resources, some of these are underexplored. The energy potential is expressed in the abundance

Table 13.1 Estimated energy consumption in Africa, 1990


World Million

Africa Million

Africa as % of world
Gas 1,610 68.8 25 1.1 -
0il 2,740 117.1 85 3.6 -
Coal 3,180 135.9 86 3.7 -
Hydro(b) 630 26.9 14 0.6 -
Subtotal 8,160 348.7 210 9.0 2.6
Biomass 600 25.6 140 6.0 23.4
Total 8,760 374.3 350 15.0 4.0
Population (million) 5,300   650   12.3

Source: United Nations (1990).
a. TOE = tons of oil equivalent.
EJ = exajoules = 1018J.
b. Primary energy equivalent.

Table 13.2 Estimated energy consumption in Africa by region, 1990


North Africa

Sub-Sahara excl. R.S.A.

Republic of South Africa

  Million TOE EJ Million TOE EJ Million TOE EJ
Non-biomass fuels 80 3.4 47 2.0 83 3.6
Biomass fuels 10 0.4 126 5.4 4 0.2
Total 90 3.8 173 7.4 87 3.8




Population (million) 114 (17%) 497 (77%) 39 (6%)

Source: United Nations (1990).

Within Sub-Sabaran Africa only five countries account for almost all the oil produced - Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Congo, and the Central African Republic (in descending order of output in 1991). The greater proportion is exported outside the region, even though petroleum is needed internally. Nigeria alone accounts for about three-quarters of the OPEC oil regulated quotas. On the whole, the total petroleum consumed is below 25 per cent of the total production (figs. 13.2 and 13.3).

Natural gas reserves on the continent are enormous and it is observed that the current reserves outweigh petroleum reserves if the current rate of production is taken into consideration. Coal reserves, which are more concentrated in the south, are expected to last for about 300 years. The growth rate of coal production has been slow, partly owing to greater reliance on petroleum for energy and to infrastructural and environmental problems.

Unlike coal, hydropower production is more widespread and has been increasing. It grew nearly four-fold between 1950 and 1988. Even at this growth rate, only 4 per cent of this power potential is exploited. Initial investment in production, environmental concerns, as well as old equipment and recurrent drought, have contributed to slowing down the growth of this power sector. Geothermal energy is utilized mainly in East Africa, and the possibility of its development needs to be explored for use elsewhere in SSA. The same goes for the production and supply of renewable energy sources. In these circumstances, wood fuels have become the predominant source of energy in the region.