While Africa boasts a hydropower generation capacity of 38.8 GW – accounting for approximately 17% of the continent’s electricity generation on average – a sizable gap exists between installed capacity and untapped potential. To minimize the effects of climate change while bringing clean and affordable energy access to the world’s fastest-growing population, the full exploitation of Africa’s hydropower potential is needed to ensure the continent’s development goals.
The share of Africa’s installed hydropower capacity within its energy matrix is expected to increase to over 23% by 2040, as part of ongoing efforts to achieve universal energy access on the continent. Unlocking additional finance for sustainable hydropower development remains key to securing Africa’s energy future, with several large-scale projects currently underway to provide affordable and dispatchable electricity in the coming years.
Last October, global energy company, GE Vernova, announced the commissioning of four 175 MW Francis hydropower turbines and generators at its Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Station in Nigeria, currently under construction in Niger State. The 700 MW project is poised to meet up to 10% of the country’s total domestic electricity requirements, while also serving to assist flood control and irrigation services for the region.
The same month saw the Kenyan Government grant approval for the Kenya Electricity Generating Company to upgrade the Gogo Hydropower Station from its current capacity of 2 MW to 8.6 MW. While Kenya’s installed large hydropower capacity currently stands at 826 MW, its potential for small-, mini- and micro-hydro systems has been estimated at 3,000 MW, indicating the full scope of the resource’s untapped potential.
In neighboring Uganda, the share of hydropower in electricity generation exceeds 80%. The recent commissioning of two hydropower plants – the 7.8 MW Nyamwamba II and 14 MW Kikagati plants – underscores the country’s commitment to exploiting the full potential of its hydroelectric resources. Last October, the EU announced plans to invest $63 million in upgrading the Nalubaale and Kirra Hydropower Plant Complex in Uganda’s eastern region. Situated at the source of the Nile River near the city of Jinja, the plant currently produces approximately 380 MW.
In Cameroon, independent energy company, Savannah Energy – through its subsidiary, Savannah Energy RCM Ltd. – signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government last April to develop the Bini à Warak Hydroelectric Project in the country’s northern Adamawa Region. The 75 MW project is well positioned to support local electricity demand, while enabling a number of energy-intensive industrial projects, primarily in the cement and metallurgy industries. Poised to increase Cameroon’s on-grid electricity generation capacity by over 50%, the project will be developed on an independent power project basis, with first power targeted for 2027/2028. Cameroon boasts the third-highest hydropower potential in sub-Saharan Africa, with the energy source already accounting for over 60% of the country’s total installed capacity.
In April 2023, the government of Tanzania and the French Development Agency signed an agreement for the funding of the Kakono Hydropower Plant, to be developed on the Kagera River in the country’s northwestern Lake Region. The plant is expected to provide Tanzania’s national grid with an additional 88 MW, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 216,000 tons of CO2 per year. Moreover, the development of the 2 GW Julius Nyerere Hydropower Facility is poised to increase Tanzania’s total installed power capacity to 3.7 GW upon its completion in 2024. Several smaller hydropower plants are also currently in the planning stages and are expected to produce an additional 600 MW of clean and reliable electricity.
Meanwhile, Angola’s Ministry of Water and Energy announced last September that the country’s Laúca Hydroelectric Power Plant has become fully operational following the commissioning of six 70 MW turbines. With a total capacity of over 2 GW, the Laúca Hydroelectric Power Plant now represents the second largest hydroelectric power facility in Africa and aligns with Angola’s efforts to create a competitive landscape for clean energy developers.
Having modernized its Africa Hydropower Monetization Program in mid-2023, the African Development Bank and International Hydropower Association have sought to attract foreign investment from countries including the UK, China, Canada, the US and Norway, with the goal of developing new hydropower installations across the continent. The Program is poised to provide significant market opportunities for the rehabilitation of existing hydropower plants, while deploying new capacity and promoting private sector participation to finance hydropower projects at a low cost and with relatively short lead times.