3. Important Drivers for Future African Energy Demand

The African population is growing at a fast rate. At the same time per capita income levels are rising and Africa is urbanizing. These three trends will significantly affect energy use in the coming decades.

Africa's population was 1.031 bn in 2010. It is projected to grow to 2-3 bn by 2050 (UN Population Division, 2008). The current urbanisation rate ranges from 18% in Ethiopia to 50% in Nigeria to well above 70% in some of the North African countries (UN Population Division, 2009). On average 34% of the population lives in cities.

Figure 5 provides a breakdown for sub-Saharan Africa. The trend is towards a 20 percentage point increase of the urban share by 2050. This means that more than half of the population will live in cities, and the urban population will more than double.

Africa`s economies have been growing at an average rate of around 4% in the last few years. If this trend continues, GDP will increase 2.65-fold by 2035 (compared to 2010), and 4.8-fold by 2050. Part of this projected growth can be attributed to population growth. Per capita GDP would only grow by 1.2-1.8%. This level of productivity growth can be attributed to technological advances.

Car ownership rates are still low, slightly above 100 cars/ 1,000 inhabitants in South Africa and between 50 and 100 in Northern Africa. The rest of sub-Saharan Africa has, on average, less than 25 cars/1,000 inhabitants. In comparison, the level in OECD countries is about 500 cars. As a result, energy use in the transportation sector is currently low, but could grow substantially in the coming decades.

African production of energy-intensive commodities is still low. Steel production is only 1% of Chinese steel production, cement production about 5% of Chinese production. Industrial energy use in Africa is not well analysed and collection of better data is recommended. If Africa follows the growth model of China and India, a significant growth of industrial production can be foreseen. The fact that the continent has abundant natural resources that can be used as feedstock for industrial activities supports such development projections.


1 Foster and Briceno-Garmendia, 2010.