Opinion: Affordable energy key to Africa economic growth

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Karim Sadek, Managing Director, Qalaa Holding, Transport Division

Karim Sadek, Managing Director at Qalaa Holdings (CCAP.CA on the Egyptian Exchange), an African leader in energy and infrastructure, showcased Qalaa’s diversified portfolio of energy investments at “Africa Innovates” a unique forum held in Helsinki, Finland to boost economic cooperation and knowledge sharing between Africa and the Nordic countires in key sectors such as infrastructure, energy, education, healthcare and ICT.

In his keynote address Sadek highlighted the fact that while Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies, the lack of affordable and reliable energy is hindering its ability to achieve sustainable economic growth.

“Africa will need an additional 292,000 MW of capacity over the next 25 years in order to meet the needs of increasing population and rapid urbanization,” said Sadek. “The continent currently has the lowest electricity generation capacity in the world so the challenges are tremendous.”

“While access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa has more than doubled in the past 15 years growing from 14% in 1990 to 35% in 2014 the number of people who have no access to the electricity grid is still well below other developing regions with total electricity capacity per capita standing at 0.4 MW per 1,000 people; a third of the capacity of South Asia and a tenth of the capacity of Latin America. So Africa is basically where China stood 30 years ago,” explained Sadek.

Sadek did note however that the challenges present ample opportunities for investment in both conventional and althernative energy and that solutions like off-grid solar technologies are particularly well-suited to connecting rural households more quickly and cheaply in areas where centralized grids are slow and expensive to deploy.

To keep pace with projected economic growth and provide much needed energy capacity in its home country of Egypt and the wider region, Qalaa has invested in a range of energy projects from refining, to natural gas and electricity distribution and althernative energy solutions.

The company’s energy investments are held under three distinct subsidiaries: The Egyptian Refining Company (ERC), a state-of-the-art US$ 3.7 bn refinery (the largest in Africa) that will produce 4.2 mn tons of diesel, TAQA Arabia, Egypt’s largest independent energy distribution company, and Tawazon, a market pioneer in the production of biomass and RDF as alternative fuels.

“Addressing Africa’s energy defict whether through renewable or traditional solutions will require capital that governments on their own will not be able to deploy which is why the private sector must work with African governments to develop transformative energy projects,” said Sadek.

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