1. Why energy matters
2. Main characteristics of African energy use
3. Great issues around having sufficient fuel for subsistence
4. Energy use patterns
5. Household's dependance on wood-fuels
6. Energy sources and supply constraints
- oil and petroleum products and natural gas
- wood and peat
9. Popular participation
11. Fuel substitution
1. Why Energy Matters
Sub-Saharan Africa has 9% of the world's population, and is responsible for 2.5% of world economic activity measured by volume. It comprises 47 countries, most of which have a high percentage of low income and largely rural agrarian communities.
The region consumes 2.7% of world commercial primary energy. It has 2% of world proven oil reserves, 3% of world proven gas reserves and 6% of world proven coal reserves. There is a large hydropower potential, in excess of 1,383 GWh/a. Other energy resources include uranium deposits and a consistently high level of solar insolation. Despite the extensive primary energy resources, commercial energy use is the lowest in the world and the average per capita final commercial energy consumption is less than 300 kg of petrol equivalent per inhabitant, compared with 7,905 kg in North America and the world average of 1,434 kg (World Bank Index 1996). The most optimistic estimates have the ratio of consumption between the North and South stagnating at 5.6:1 over the coming decades (6.5: 1 in 1985). In terms of electrical energy use, the gap is even more glaring - 40% of the population of the world (essentially in the third world) are completely excluded. This brings up questions concerning under-consumption on the one hand, and on the other, the "quality" of energy consumed by Africans south of the Sahara.
More than half the countries of the region spend 20 to 35% of their total export earnings on petroleum. The main forces driving the demand for energy are population growth and economic development. The exposure and vulnerability of the sub-Saharan African economies contributed to the severe economic downturn during the period of high oil prices in the 1970s and early 1980s . The distribution of primary energy resources across the region is uneven. Nigeria and Angola have 32% of Africa's proven oil reserves while virtually the rest, 65%, is in North Africa. Nigeria has 33% of Africa's proven gas reserves, while North Africa has 56%. South Africa has 88% of Africa's proven coa! reserves. Of the 308 GW of hydro-power potentiel, 64% is located in East and Central Africa and 34% in West Africa. Regional trade in both fuels and electricity is relatively low. (WEC)
There are numerous difficulties associated with compiling information on the energy situation in sub-Saharan Africa. There is a paucity of data to begin with - there is no single work dealing with the entire situation in all its aspects in existence, though such a work is under production at present'. This is partly due to the relatively recent acquisition, on the part of most states, of central institutions to deal specifically with this problem, and partly due to the unique context of the regional energy scene. An enormous section of the African economy is informal, and this applies particularly with regard to energy resources, the majority of which are produced and received utterly without reference to the commercial sector. Data must then be compiled through sources other than market tracking - surveys, and estimations of use of resources. Information coming from many different bodies, governmental, international or NGOs, is often out of synch, and frequently contradictory, depending not only on the source but also on the viewpoint of the compiler on the major problems to be addressed. In addition, many countries do not have sufficient tracking mechanisms of their energy resources and usage (22% of regional countries regard energy as a "subordinate activity", according to the African Development Bank), meaning that all projections concerning the region as a whole are merely approximate.
Top of file
2. Main characteristics of African energy use
The most striking feature of the African energy situation is over-consumption of low grade traditional energy sources (fuel-wood, charcoal and non-woody biomass), on the one hand, and underconsumption of high quality modem fuels (Coal, LPG, naturel gas, NRSE) on the other. Large disparities exist among countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with only five accounting for 70% of total modern energy consumption for the region (Nigeria, RSA). National per capita modern energy consumption varies by a factor of more than 10 between the highest user and the lowest (World Bank,1990). Enormous disparities also exist between urban poor and rural users and the higher income groups throughout the region.
Per capita modern energy consumption has been declining over the last 10 years and is set to decline even further as population continues to increase and electricity generation continues to show a downward trend. The generation of hydrogen-based electricity has dropped by more than 20 per cent in the past decade (US Department of Energy, 1991).
Traditional fuels account for over 60% of total energy consumption throughout sub-Saharan Africa (see figure 1), and in certain regions, such as Burundi and Burkina Faso, the figure is as high as 90%. The oil producing countries do not show any major deviations from this situation. Since household energy use stands at about 68% of total energy consumption, and traditional fuels account for 77% of household consumption in the region as a whole, it is clear that the household is the major actor in energy matters, the major user of primary energy sources, and furthermore, the major decision-maker in terms of practicable energy policy throughout sub-Saharan Africa. However, official spending on biomass, standing at about 2.2% of total allocation of energy funds (see figure 2), is markedly disproportionate to the stature of this fuel source in the region.
There is more variation in the reliance on traditional fuels in the East and Southern region than in West and Central Africa, ranging, for example, from 14% in RSA to 70% in Sudan. It is estimated that, on average, the Southern region, excluding RSA, relies on fuel-wood for 89% of its energy needs. With the inclusion of RSA this reliance declines to 58%, illustrating the difficulties of regional generalising. In North Africa, biomass (largely residues) represents about 30% of the energy balance of a country such as Morocco.
Top of file
3. Great issues around having sufficient fuel for subsistence
The traditional energy sources are clearly not efficient enough to service energy intensive activities and therefore much of the debate surrounding energy resources in sub-Saharan Africa concerns the harnessing or importation of other fuel sources for the support of nascent industries and services. On the other hand there is also a question mark over the ability of woody biomass resources to cater for the majority of sub-Saharan African peoples who depend on it for their basic subsistence.
In spite of the enormous biomass potentiel in Africa, the very unequal distribution of resources is a major problem to sustainable supply and contributes to the deforestation of several zones in the subregion. In Southern Africa, for exemple, the forest cover of Malawi is only 0.38% as against 53% for Swaziland.
Although biomass is a renewable resource, its over- or mis-use can lead quickly and easily to shortages as was witnessed in the "fuel-wood crisis" in North Africa in the eighties . Despite many predictions that a similar crisis would overtake parts of sub-Saharan Africa, nothing on that scale has yet taken place. However in many areas wood-fuel resources are under severe pressure, a fact reflected in the growing use of inefficient and unhealthy non-woody biomass resources such as animal wastes and crop residues in some rural areas, and increasing prices for woody biomass in most urban centres. Landclearing in certain areas has meant a notable increase in actual labour consumed (especially in terms of distance travelled - the area of cleared land around Khartoum, for exemple, already stands at a 400 kms radius and is expected to reach 600 kms by 2005) in order to secure a sufficient supply of fuel. Considering that at the same time real wages throughout the region have been steadily falling, the question of fuel supply in sub-Saharan Africa requires urgent appraisal.
Many sub-Saharan African countries share the problem of over-exploitation of wooded lands. Vast areas that were once highly productive in terms of biomass yield have been completely depleted. Estimates indicate that over 11 million hectares of tropical forests are lost annually under excessive clearance and mismanagement. The African Savannahs (12.5 million km2) are being cut down and depleted at an accelerated rate. In the Sudan 3l km2 of the woodland Savannah are lost annually, while Ethiopia is left with only 3% of its total forest cover. In Nigeria 12.5 million ha. are subject to ecological degradation, while up to 2 million ha. have been lost to date.
At the same time, information on the extent of the loss of biomass, often equated with deforestation, is highly inaccurate and sometimes contradictory. In certain countries like Mali, Burkina Faso and Kenya, recent studies tend to invalidate the trends forecast in the 1980's of a major depletion of supply and demand of traditional energy sources, and that this situation would become even more aggravated. In fact, it now seems that the productivity of forests and the number of trees might have actually increased, rendering the fuel-wood deficit uncertain and, in all instances, localized.
The African Development Bank notes that there is a fundamental flaw in the assumption on which analysis of energy supply and demand is founded, specifically that diminishing fuel-wood supplies are a result of inexorable growth in household consumption. There is however preponderant evidence suggesting that the major cause of deforestation is not fuel-wood demand but land-clearing for agricultural production and human settlements.
Furthermore, the official and donor's conception of the problem has often been at odds with the perceptions of the populations concerned. Local people do not necessarily perceive fuel-wood in itselfas a problem or even a priority, considering the range of difficulties they often face. Since wood is considered a free commodity in rural areas, fuel production appears to be economically unattractive to the individual smallholder. Woody biomass plays an important role in the entire agricultural production system on which people's subsistance depends. These needs include-fodder, fertiliser, food, fruits, medicine, dyes, cultural/religious and environmental protection. Fuel-wood is therefore largely regarded as a by-product. Equally, therefore, the threat of extinction or significant reduction of woody biomass resources in a particular area is synonymous with a threat to the sustainability and well-being of African populations.
Throughout sub-Saharan Africa the population continues to increase at a rate of 3% per annum. However the average age has decreased over the past three decades, and currently 45% of the population is aged under 15 years. Due to the changing trends in the age structure, the equilibrium between the active population ( 15-60 years) and the dependent population (under 15 years and over 60 years) will equally undergo some modification. It is also estimated that the urban-dwelling population will rise form 34.5% in 1990 to more than 50% by the year 2000. Rural areas tend to be almost exclusively consumers of wood while the urban centres prefer charcoal.
The literature on the fuel-wood question increasingly suggests that there are a host of complex sociological, economic and ecological factors which actively mould and reshape the nature and magnitude of the energy crisis confronting poor households in Africa. Reference has been made to scarcity of labour force, transport difficulties, competing demands for wood products, land tenure systems and patterns of population settlements and movement. It has been stressed that there is a close link between energy, water and food, and that fuel scarcities, while serious, are only one of the numerous difficulties which threaten survival. Fuel-wood shortages are a symptom of widespread rural poverty and are linked to the more fundamental dimensions of survival, production and land management.
Top of file
4. Energy use patterns
Commercial fuel consumption for this region is about the lowest in the world. This clearly reflects upon the low level of economic activity in the region. In the continent as a whole, access to electricity stands at about 20%. In rural areas it is generally below 5%. South Africa accounts for 75% of all commercial energy consumption in the region, although only accounting for 37% of final energy consumption.
Modern commercial supplies are used mainly in and around the mining and urban enclaves to satisfy the needs of modern transport, industry, service, households and a small amount for commercial agriculture. The commercial energy mix of countries within the region varies considerably, and is to a large extent dependent on the composition of energy resources. All the countries in the region rely on oil to a large extent. With the exceptions of South Africa and Zimbabwe, petroleum represents the largest source of commercial energy. In all cases, besides Angola, Cameroon, Nigeria and Gabon, the demand is met by imports. This causes a growing drain on the economies of many countries and uses up scarce foreign exchange earnings. In Tanzania, for example, although oil constitutes only 7% of total energy consumed, it costs the nation over 60% of its total export earnings in 1985 (WEC, 1992). The consumption of petroleum products also represents a key source of revenue for the region's governments through taxes and surcharges.
The transport sector consumes a large section of the commercial energy supply, and passenger transport by car absorbs the vast majority of the energy use in the transport sector. The number of cars per 1000 in the region varies from about 4 in Sierra Leone to about 17 in Cote d'Ivoire. The average for Africa is about 7, which is high when compared with other developing countries (Korea: 6; India: 2; Bangladesh: 0.3).
Mining and non-energy intensive industries dominate the industrial sectors. There are, however, a few energy intensive industries, such as VALCO, a transnational aluminium production company in Ghana, petroleum refining companies in many countries, and fertilizer companies and steel and cement plants in Nigeria.
Top of file
5. Household's dependance on wood-fuels
While commercial energy accounts for most of the demand of industry, transport and agriculture (see Table 1), the vast majority of energy use is centred on the household, as previously indicated, where non-commercial fuels pre-dominate, thereby skewing the data of energy use patterns in sub-Saharan Africa to some extent. The predominance of household energy use in the region, and of wood and charcoal in the household has recently been given some of the attention it clearly deserves, particularly by the ADB. That said, data collection, which here relies more on survey than national statistics, does not encompass all nations equally as of yet.
Source : ADB - Household energy consumption patterns in Africa, 1996 1
The energy consumption of the household (defined as a group of individuals with or without family ties, taking their meals together, pooling their financial resources, acting under the same authority) in sub-Saharan Africa has preponderance over the total demand of all other sectors put together and relies overwhelmingly on traditional fuels. Biomass supply for household energy consumption in Africa exceeds current demand, and the supply structures to fuel-wood buyers in urban and rural areas are currently quite adequate. However, this overall picture fails to depict the acute shortage in selected pockets in each African country. This added to the growing demand for traditional fuels, particularly charcoal, means that the sustainability of supply of these fuels in some countries in the near future, will be contingent upon practices of land use management and "popular" approaches to afforestation and reforestation.
Despite its dominance, wood is not the only fuel used in the sub-Saharan African household (figure 4). A number of factors influence what sort of energy source is used by which household, the most significant being household income (figure 5): in general the higher the income the more likely it is that a household will use modern fuels. Households with higher socio-economic statute and levels of education consume more energy and are better disposed to acquire fuels such as LPG and electricity. This correlation is largely manifested in urban areas. In rural areas the same trend can be discerned, although blurred by the degree of social homogeneity, the non-diversification of energy uses, the inaccessibility of alternative energies and the unchallenged dominance of fuel-wood.
The ADB study further reveals that lower income households are the least consumers of energy and that total energy consumption increases with income. Despite the fact the primary fuel, wood, is commonly free in rural areas, and that energy consumption is markedly less than in the industrial countries, a far higher proportion of the household income is allocated to energy in sub-Saharan Africa than in the West (see Table 2), varying from 9.5% in Burundi up to 22.3% in Equatorial Guinea.
Other fuels used in households are LPG and Natural Gas (mainly in urban areas), Electricity and Kerosene (these last two used mainly for lighting in urban and rural areas respectively). Various residues are used as energy in rural areas which have experienced severe shortages of woody biomass. There is a certain amount of use of New and Renewable Energies (NRSEs), but practically speaking their level of use remains insignificant.
If current consumption patterns are maintained, the average growth rate of household energy consumption will be in the order of 4% every year. Stimulated by a galloping demographic growth rate, this increase in energy consumption largely remains a function of biomass, whose trends of conservation will have equal or more of a share in shaping the household energy balance in the coming years.
The ADB report, drawing on the close correlation between income levels and energy-demand structures asserts "the preponderance of fuel-wood as an indicator of the poverty of households", and that "fuel-wood is the fuel of the poor". Thus despite many demand side efforts to reduce the demand for wood, its share of total energy consumption has been maintained at a very high level. This, the ADB points out, is explained by the fact that most users of wood-energy, i.e. most African households, are poor and thus cannot afford to choose their fuel. Fuel-wood remains relatively cheap, while top-down international economic programmes have ensured that other types of fuel cannot be subsidised.
For the great majority of African households, wood and its derivatives will constitute the only energy source for cooking for a long time to come. For this majority, therefore, the consumption of fuel-wood is a question of survival.
Top of file
6. Energy sources and supply constraints
In general, sub-Saharan Africa uses low quality, inefficient sources of energy, which appear to be becoming more difficult to produce and renew, while at the same time producing high-quality, efficient fuels which are largely exported - petrol, natural gas, uranium. This is due partly to there not being a large domestic market for these fuels, partly that their export serves to service debts, and partly to the fact that control of these products is largely in the hands of international corporate bodies. While the supply of biomass fuels appears to be threatened, that of conventional fuels (petrol, gas and hydroelectricity) is actually growing, albeit irregularly, and driven more by expanding demand outside of the continent, than that inside. In 1986, for example, total production of petrol and natural gas in Africa was in the region of 30 million tonnes greater than that of Europe, while final consumption of the same fuels was six times less. By comparison, practically equivalent production in East and South East Asia (including China) stands at a ratio of 3:1 greater than consumption. However there is much intra-regional trade in Asia (40%) in comparison with Africa, where intra-regional trade accounts for only 6% of total trade. The reasons for this remain under-analysed.
Oil and Petroleum products and Natural Gas
Proven oil reserves at the end of the 1980s were estimated at 8 billion tonnes. Thus, on the basis of current production rates, known reserves are sufficient to cover 25 years oil production. Exploration activities are not particularly well sustained in Africa. Numerous sedimentary basins on the coast and in the interior, where new discoveries are probable, are prospected little or not at all. the oil companies are reluctant to take up costly drilling programmes which cannot generally be funded by the national companies. Gabon and Nigeria, however, are intensively engaged in prospection in order to refurbish their known reserves.
Africa exports about 80% of its oil production, this being about 16% of the global total, yet total consumption represents only 3% of the global total. At the same time, 40 of the countries are net importera of oil and petroleum products. Other than in Nigeria and Angola, which have by far the largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa (89%), oil production throughout the sub-continent is in the hands of foreign companies, nine of whom (Elf, Chevron, Shell, Amoco, Marathon, Exxon, Sun, Conoco, Total) control the mining rights to 75% of the mining territories of 28 countries. However national societies, particularly NNPC in Nigeria and Sonangol in Angola, are still responsible for half of the total oil production (338 million tonnes in 1992). Clearly this has an impact on the direction of revenue from oil exportation.
Proven natural gas reserves are estimated at about 9,771 billion cubic metres at the end of 1991, about 6.6% of the global total, 56% of which is located in the North. The remainder is divided among 16 sub-Saharan countries and Nigeria (33%). In 1991, 4.75 billion cubic metres of gas in Nigeria was commercialised from a brute production of 28.9 billion. 2.4 billion cubic metres was reinjected, and the rest was burnt off, representing a loss of 18 million Tonnes of Oil Equivalent. In 1988, Africa represented 1.5% of global gas consumption despite having 10% of world population.
The oil industry in the region is, except when controlled by foreign interests, heavily regulated by governments through the determination and control of prices and, in many countries, direct involvement and monopolistic control of procurement, refining and distribution activities. Governments are often major shareholders in the oil companies and refineries. Besides the well developed South African market, the market for petroleum products lacks adequate institutional infrastructure, is disjointed and characterized by inefficient and inadequate transport and distribution systems. The inadequacy of the transport sector is especially detrimental to land-locked countries.
The current state of the petroleum products industry in the region (excluding South Africa) is poor and the cost of supply and distribution excessively high. This represents a fundamental obstacle to the economic development of the region. Much scope exists for a rationalized system which would enable large savings. It has been estimated that rationalization could enable a saving of US$ 270 million for the Eastern African region, with Tanzania and Zambia showing the largest potential for improvement. However, the major problems are procurement, refining and distribution inefficiencies. Difficulties with procuring oil are due to lack of foreign exchange reserves, lack of proper purchasing skills or proper bidding procedures, and the concentration of procurement activities in the hands of the entities with little or no incentives to minimize actual costs. The region's refineries generally suffer from poor outdated technical structures, are small in scale, lack appropriate maintenance and repair (lack of foreign exchange), have low utilization rates, and operate in a small market. Distribution is rendered problematic due to the poor state of storage and transportation infrastructures, the operation of which is affected by the lack of appropriate skills in the areas of logistics and service management.
Two large areas of sub-Saharan Africa are particularly rich in resources for the generation of hydroelectricity: the axis of the great African lakes from Kenya to Zambia, and the Atlantic coastline from Guinea to Angola. Zaire, straddling these two zones, possesses nearly 60% of total African hydroelectric resources. These resources are estimated at 1,383 GWh/ year on the African continent, concentrated almost totally in sub-Saharan Africa, with a little under a half (46%) considered technically exploitable, and about one quarter (27%) economically exploitable. Technically exploitable resources represent about 5% of the corresponding world total. Only 7% (43 GWh/ year) of technically exploitable resources (12% of econornically exploitable resources) have been developed to date. Production has dropped sharply from a level of 60 GWh in 1980, principally due to cessation of production at the Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique. In 1989 hydroelectricity covered 45% of African electricity demand (119 GWh).
Electrification is at an embryonic stage throughout the continent, and particularly in the countries south of the Sahara. Only six countries in sub-Saharan Africa have an installed capacity exceeding I GW. The largest energy market in the region is ESKOM's Southern African Electricity grid, which links South Africa and many of its neighbouring states. This grid, which has an installed capacity of some 36 000 MW, supplies the so-called "independent" territories within South Africa, as well as Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland. It is also indirectly linked to Zambia and Zimbabwe. The latter two countries have interconnecting grids, and Zambia also has links with Zaire. Kenya has a link with Uganda.
The electric power supply industry in the region is almost invariably government owned, highly centralized and politically regulated. Although the region has no shortage of the resource base for economic power generation and supply, there has been a deterioration in the performance of the electric power utilities, and a depression of the electricity markets of the region in the 1980s.
Total installed capacity in the region amounts to some 55,000 MW with South Africa alone having some 36,000 MW. With the exception of South Africa, the infrastructure is still largely characterized by:
- isolated networks with little or no interconnection between countries, Apart from these inefficiencies, the reliability and availability of existing installed electricity systems is low. In Nigeria, for example, there has been such a serious problem with power reliability over the years that most industrial establishments and upper income households install expensive electric power generating sets. These amount to over half of total installed grid capacity. In some countries isolated sub-national grids are still to be found. The cost of electricity is high by the standards of developed countries, and this provides a serious obstacle to the expansion of electrification.
- low fuel use efficiency,
- low capacity factors, and
- high distribution and transmission losses
Wood and Peat - constraints:
The potential of natural forest resources in sub-Saharan Africa appears impressive. Forest covers 22.2% of a total land area of 477 million hectares. Biomass resources are estimated at about 82 billion tonnes, with an annuel average growth of 1.7 billion m3. This is a potentiel of 168.2 tonnes per capita. Productivity, at 3.9m3 (2.7 tonnes) per capita, is more than sufficient to cover the annual per capita demand for fuel which is about one tonne. However these aggregates conceal the considerable differences in terms of resource distribution and production fluctuation that exist between the subregions of the continent and within the countries themselves.
Efforts to address the energy situation in sub-Saharan Africa have met with a number of constraints. Substitution of fuels has been difficult due not least to the prohibitive price from the point of view of most consumers, as has been indicated. But added to this are inter-related problems associated with the land tenure laws throughout the region, with the legacy of previous government policies combined with confusion as to how best to formulate more effective energy policies, and with public awareness of the existing problems
Top of file
With regard to land tenure law, the trajectory of practically all sub-Saharan countries shares a combination of three major factors - pre-colonial laws or customs which in general held the land in high esteem, colonial regulations, designed for the most part to keep the populations away from land resources, and finally post-independence legal structures.
Following the independence of most African states in the 1960s, some of them adopted new legal systems and others maintained the inherited structures, including an impressive number on all kinds of subjects and sectors with the ad hoc additions deemed necessary. To date, by and large, we can distinguish two typical situations in respect of the legal structures of African countries. On the one hand there are countries with a modem "framework" law, usually of a recent date. These laws are normally rather complete as regards principles followed and objectives stated. The general guidelines included in these laws have, with some exceptions, only rarely been turned into effective and applicable regulations, mechanisms or by-laws. Frequently these laws are still organized by medium or sector, and often they do not address the energy sector directly which makes it difficult to deal with complex inter-sectoral issues.
On the other hand a group of African countries have maintained former colonial law on a range of subjects and sectors. Colonial land tenure laws and regulations remain marked by the concern to keep the forests away from the populations and their activities (wood-cutting, poaching, bush-fires, pastureland and agriculture, etc.). The trend that prevailed almost everywhere was to reinforce restrictions and impose rigid control that should prevent people from the illegal exploitation of forestry resources. In the transition to independence, much of the control of forested territories was left in the hands of forestry departments, who apply a similar approach to this day, often with antagonistic results. Coercitive measures have not been able to stop forest degradation, or even prevent the population from continuing to exploit the forests illegally. This degradation was aggravated by the adoption of land laws which did not take due consideration of community traditions regarding management practices.
These collections of laws often lack harmony and coherence; sometimes provisions are even contradictory. They fail to address important and complex aspects, such as the delineation of national versus local responsibilities, the responsibilities of the specific governmental and non-governmental institutions, the issue of reparation versus prevention of environmental damage, the relation with jurisdiction on other subjects, etc. In respect of energy, the division of legal aspect to cover mining, forestry, and industry, development or financial law apparently strongly affects the required coherence of policy making. Consequently the effect of these laws is marginal.
Apart from the evolution of formal legal structures, however, parts of the traditional community laws of the African continent play a considerable role. To a certain extent these laws have survived because of the physical inability of some states to exercice a complete jurisdiction over their territory, due to lack of facilities or sheer size. Another important reason, undoubtedly, is the modest legitimacy of a number of regimes in areas outside their direct control. The co-existence between customary law and modern regulations has often resulted in antagonisms leading to a number of conflicts between the government and local populations living around state-developed centers, on the one hand, and the local populations and new private occupants on the other, as populations claim their right to collective ownership over newly developed laws.
The excessive centralization of state administration has been a deterrent to the active participation of the populations in land and forestry management. The almost exclusive and repressive character of governments' intervention to protect the environment was not conducive to the popular participation of grassroots communities in development activities (afforestation, bush-fire control, soil erosion control, etc.).
(In Sudan, a land law dated 1925, ratified in 1970 and updated in 1989 stipulates "that all virgin lands and forests as well as free unoccupied zones shall remain the property of the State unless proof to the contrary is produced.")
Top of file
Clearly the formation of energy policy has been hampered with problems related to these legal structures. Energy departments as specialized bodies were only created towards the end of the 1970s and early 1980s, in response to the oil crises. In most countries, energy structures were established within central ministries. These entities were charged with the responsibility for policy formation, planning and the development and use of the country's energy resources. However, energy Ministries exist side by side with a multitude of institutions dealing with one or other among energy issues. These are usually a Forestry Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources, Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Energy research is also carried out in universities and other higher educational institutes. The problem is that these institutions don't always work in concert. This could be attributable to weak lateral linkages, coordination and communication between the various institutions. The output of research institutions is hampered by lack of strategic research programmes, poor co-ordination and the absence of adequate funding and care on the part of the government. Driven by the need for effective communication, some countries have created National Energy Commissions/Boards to deal with the problem. Senegal, Ghana and Burkina Faso are cases in point.
In addition, many decisions at governmental level have exacerbated the problem of biomass supply with development policies. The post-independence era has witnessed very slight deviation from the inherited colonial development policies. The agricultural sector remained dominant, export-orientated, neither intensified or diversified and with minimum alternatives for the vast majority of rural populations. Common features of the broad developmental policy frameworks for the majority of sub-Saharan countries can be summarized as follows:
In the implementation process of these policies more land has been cleared and put under irrational agricultural production to simultaneously meet the food demands of the constantly growing population and the pressing demands of the commodity market. However, governments tended to give top priority to commodity crop production over food crops. Under these policies pressures on land and natural resources increased, and deforestation and environmental degradation continued at an unbridled pace.
- increase agricultural production of exportable crops;
- increase agricultural production of domestic staple food;
- encourage development of agro-industries;
- increase job opportunities for rural population.
Policy issues related to bioenergy sub-systems have invariably stressed the preventive approach and focused simply on supply/sustainability of fuel-wood and biomass through conservational measures, and to a lesser extent on energy demand at the point of end-use. Fuel-wood is often considered in the context of environmental protection rather than in its real economic perspective. As a result neither incentives and financial structures nor legislation and enforcement measures are geared properly to serve these traditional fuels and other bioenergy sub-systems.
Top of file
9. Popular participation
Considering that where there is pressure on energy resources currently, it is highly localized, it should come as no surprise that people living in wood deficit zones have a greater awareness of the problem. A survey carried out in Senegal and Gambia commented: "People are aware of the environmental implications of exploiting the biomass resources for firewood and charcoal and they fear that a biomass energy crisis may occur in future if conservation measures are not embarked on. People emphasize the need to plant trees and control the rate of exploitation of biomass resources for firewood/charcoal. They also ask the government to subsidize the cost of LPG and electricity so that they will depend less on firewood/charcoal for their domestic cooking needs." (UNEP/ UCAD, 1996)
However government action does not always take place at the precise location where it is felt necessary. On the whole, given that reforestation operations were often carried out on contract, the interest of local populations concerned has been low. On the other hand, small operations referred to as "village woodlots" have enjoyed the full support of the populations and produced better results. But even where States have undertaken some activities in the area of environmental protection and energy management, the results expected have rarely been achieved. In the opinion of those interviewed (community leaders and professional associations) the populations are often not consulted and so do not feel concerned by the projects, particularly the forestry ones initiated. Besides, the programmes do not always correspond to a need felt by local populations. In Botswana for exemple, only 25% of respondents happen to be aware of reforestation activities going on in their region. The large majority feel that such programmes would be better managed by local communities and hardly 16% have confidence in the State. (ADB - Households).
In the African context, the instruments for public information dissemination include the press, radio, television, schools universities and NGOs. Often it is stated that the absence of "modern" means of communication and illiteracy are major impediments to addressing the general public. Experience with the successful marketing of commercial products such as baby milk and pain relievers suggest that this is not necessarily the case. One drawback and cost aspect, though, is the lack of organization of the several target groups in branch organizations, consumer organizations, etc.
Top of file
The current state of the land and environmental degradation in the sub-Saharan African countries mostly results from the structure, functions and objectives of policies related to natural resource use. Also it can be said with reasonable certainty that the colonial policy which was motivated and governed by the world commodity markets (Redclift, 1989) has taken its toll on the environment. The split of the legal/institutional and environmental framework among several actors, often with divergent interests further creates high and permanent risk of degradation and depletion of natural resources. The conditions for the sustainable development of African countries are thus jeopardized.
Exploitation of biomass for bioenergy purposes is considered as a major contributing factor to land/soil degradation in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank 1992). Annual soil loss due to erosion is reported at 290 metric tonne/hectare for steep slopes in Ethiopia, and between 10-20 metric tonne/hectare in West African gentle slopes (World Bank, 1989). These figures are very much higher than the acceptable rates of soil erosion in a relatively stable ecosystem. They are frequently put down to growing household energy needs.
However studies have found that other modes of land-use have a more compromising impact on the ecosystem. These essentially are agricultural expansion and human settlement. The adverse consequences of traditional energy use on the environment are mitigated by the fact that rural households secure their household energy provisions from dead wood, wood residues, branches and biomass collected on the farm.
Table 6 lists the alarming rates of soil degradation in some countries.
Desertification as defined in the Rio Convention, refers to soil degradation as a result of human activity. It is worth taking account of other contributing factors to this activity however. Barrow (1991) proposed that some environments are more vulnerable to degradation than others. These susceptible environments can be grouped as follows:
i. Areas with high slope values (montane/highlands) All these vulnerable environments are found with varying extent in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact the major ecological zones in the region are naturally susceptible to soil/ land degradation (Harrison 1987a). As an essential soil binding/ protecting agent, biomass removal or weakening may interact with the environment by triggering off a series of degradational events that ultimately culminate in erosion and complete loss of top soil.
ii. Easily damaged soils (soils under rainforests
iii. Fast draining areas (dry lands)
iv. Coastal lowlands
v. Areas with torrential/ intense rainfall (Guinea/ Sudan Savannah)
vi. Areas with high drought frequency (Sahel Savannah)
vii. Areas with violent climates (rainforests/ Guinea Savannah)
viii. Areas subject to locust invasion (Sudan Savannah)
Annual soil loss in sub-Saharan Africa is over 490 metric tonne/hectare for steep slopes in Ethiopia and between 10-20 metric tonne/ha. for the gentle slopes in West Africa. Fuel-wood collection is more likely to contribute to this problem in drier environments and uplands than in other relatively stable ecosystems. In the dry Savannahs (Sudan/ Sahel) the rate of biomass depletion is higher in the extreme than both the regenerative abilities of the land and annual forest plantations. In the highlands of Ethiopia forests have been reduced from 16% to only 3% over the last 20 years.
Top of file
11. Fuel substitution
Fuel-wood substitution and fuel switching seem to be closely linked with household incomes and accessibility more than anything else. Cost is the major reason which forces households to stay with fuel-wood as the primary base fuel. It is also noticed that generally households go down the energy ladder when a higher grade fuel is not available on the market or when they have experienced a decline in their incomes. it appears that the present landscape of energy use will remain unless there is a significant improvement in the income base of African households, particularly in the rural areas. Looking at end-uses, LPG seems to be the fuel with a promising future for cooking in urban areas. It is also in urban centers that access to electricity has the best opportunity of being improved, but at a pace which could be slowed down by the high urban growth-rate in most African countries.
In Ghana 10% of households in the high-potential zone use LPG as compared to 5.3% only five years ago. In Egypt, the users of LPG have increased from 60.6% to 69.3% over the last five years. While the proportion of households using kerosene has declined over the same period from 3.3% to 2% and from 70.2% to 57.4% in Ghana and Egypt respectively.
The development of New and Renewable Sources of Energy (NRSE) has been equally advocated as a policy option. But in spite of the experimentation with some NRSEs conducted in a number of countries, the enthusiastic call for their large scale application has remained largely rhetorical, and little has been achieved on the ground, rendering insignificant the impact of these sources on energy provision, at least for the foreseeable future. Although the use of solar energy is familier in countries of the Sahel it is still marginal. many households have not heard about it, neither do they know how the equipment functions and they remain ignorant of the advantages they could derive from it.
The development of NRSE has not taken off mainly due to constraints of high initial capital and production costs and lack of established performance standards for design and installation. In Burundi where the promise of developing biogas technology is enormous, relevant programmes were stifled due to lack of funding. In view of the cost of diffusion, governments offer initiation costs for some NRSE industries, play a role in co-ordination and monitoring and make provision for Research and Development and related activities of pilot projects, as well as seeking support from donors to overcome the investment cost involved in the application of development of these technologies. In Zambia, for instance, the government has removed sales taxes on photovoltaic systems and is proposing to offer guarantees to banks willing to lend income generating NRSE technologies. In Sudan, the policy stipulates the establishment of renewable energy credit facility programmes for manufacturers, users and importers. In Zimbabwe and Sudan, the policy considers the exemption of renewable systems from import duties and production taxes.
Many rural households in areas hard hit by biomass loss have turned to the use of crop residues and animal wastes as an energy source, the ramifications of which are dubious in terms of health. However, energy substitution could also be achieved by making use of local resources such as these if appropriate technologies were introduced. The development of such technologies is still at an experimental stage, be it biogas in Burundi and Burkina Faso, peat in Senegal and Burundi or lastly coal in Southern Africa. Equally, the renewable energy technologies have not yet achieved the mature status of being successfully marketed independent of government or other subsidies. In terms of energy substitutes, Africa has an enormous potential which only needs to be explored and exploited.