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Energy is a major driver of economic development... The use of bio-energy has potential to solve Africa’s energy problem


Energy is a major driver of economic development. The Africa States are faced with challenges of energy production and thus are underdeveloped. The use of bio-energy has potential to solve Africa’s energy problem since it involves the generation of energy from biomass and biological sources such as energy crops that can be cultivated easily across Africa. However, the lack of effective government policies and technical know how is hindering the progress of exploring this resources. 

Biomass Energy In Africa: An Overview


Energy is a major driver of economic and technological development globally. It is an essential resource that is lacking in Africa which is why the continent is characterized with low technological advancement, poor economic growth, poor quality health facilities. Availability of energy in Africa is a key element to its development. One of the agendas of the Sustainable Development Goals is “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy. To actualize this goal, there is need to invest more on use of bioenergy. Bioenergy currently is the primary energy resource for about 2.7 billion people worldwide says Wicke et. al. Bioenergy is generated from biomass and various biological sources, which include; fuelwood, charcoal, livestock manure, microbial biomass, agricultural waste and its byproducts, energy crops, and others. This energy can be used for cooking, running machineries, fuels in automobiles and so no. Africa is blessed with arable land good for agriculture to produce these raw materials. However, absence of proper planning and technical know-how will put these into jeopardy.


There have been several bioenergy initiatives across the continent, however this has never been at par with success recorded in the developed countries. Crops used for bioenergy across Africa include Jatropha, sugarcane, maize and they can be cultivated successfully across the continent. Malawi is the only African country that has successfully mixed biofuels with petrol for transportation for a long period of time. Despite this, they are also being faced with problem of shortage of raw materials for generating the fuels. Several researchers report biodiesel production carried out in Nigeria. Although this was not at commercial case. The raw materials used was Jatropha seeds due to abundance of the seed across the nation. Several blends of the biodiesel were also produced using varieties of fruits and their effectiveness were experimented in different engines. The initiative has currently reduced fuelwood and kerosene by 29% and 42% respectively. Mulugetta says Mali’s bioenergy initiative called “Mali-Folke Centre” was set up to provide business incentives and support to farmers for Jatropha cultivation to produce oil. The large oil production was used led production of electricity for settlements within 20km radius from the operating center. The number of beneficiaries was later increased to over 10,000 by launching an operative 300kV power plant in South. South Africa was reported to generate electricity from biogas and since 2013 has been experiencing increase in the number of digesters across the country. From literature it is obvious that no African state has been able to generate 100% energy from this resource despite been a clean source of energy and the it’s potential to speed up development across the continent.

Is there renewed hope for biogas projects in South Africa? -

It is evident that African nations have potential for bioenergy exploration but the challenges faced is lack of effective policies to govern the smooth running of this promising resources. In the course of full exploration, there would be conflict of what to grow in the presence of limited land availability for adequate growth of the plants for bioenergy production and food for human population would emerge and lack of effective policies to combat this problem will likely result to shortage of the raw materials for bioenergy. In addition, there is limited expertise in overseeing the effective running of facilities involved.


Mulugetta, Y., 2009. Evaluating the economics of biodiesel in Africa. Renew. Sustain. Energy

Rev. 13 (6e7), 1592e1598.

Wicke, B., et al. (2011), “The Current Bioenergy Production Potential of Semi-Arid and Arid

Regions in Sub-Saharan Africa”, Biomass and Bioenergy; 35(7): 2773-2786.

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