Africa, known for its abundant water resources, took a significant stride in hydropower development last year, adding 2GW to its capacity. However, this growth highlights a glaring gap, with only 10% of the continent's potential being realized, according to the upcoming World Hydropower Outlook set to be unveiled on 12 June 2024.

The expansion in hydropower capacity across Africa in 2023 marks nearly a doubling from the previous year's figures. Key contributors to this surge include Nigeria with 740MW, Uganda with 408.2MW, the Democratic Republic of Congo with 381.7MW, and Tanzania with 261.7MW. This progress underscores the continent's potential to leverage its water resources for sustainable development and economic prosperity.

Public-private partnerships have played a pivotal role in facilitating the financing and execution of major hydropower projects. Additionally, regional cooperation initiatives are gaining momentum, offering promising avenues for further development. However, challenges such as limited access to finance, volatility, and governance issues persist, hindering infrastructure expansion.

African energy leaders are convening in Abuja this week to strategize on bridging these gaps and accelerating hydropower development. The urgency is underscored by the imperative to meet the continent's growing energy demands while advancing towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.

Recent studies commissioned by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Hydropower Association (IHA) emphasize the urgent need for rehabilitating numerous hydropower plants across Africa. The AfDB has taken a lead role in this effort, earmarking a US$1 billion investment to upgrade twelve hydropower plants.

Eddie Rich, CEO of the IHA, emphasized the pivotal role of hydropower in Africa's energy landscape, stating: " With significant solar power coming onto the African grids, it is imperative that Africa’s hydropower potential is realised to ensure that reliable electricity supply is balanced and readily available. The development of hydropower in Africa is not just about generating electricity; it's about empowering communities, driving economic growth, and charting a sustainable path towards a clean energy future."

Despite positive strides in renewable energy development, a significant deficit in global capacity persists. Eng. Lamu Audu, Managing Director/CEO of Mainstream Energy Solutions Limited and Vice-Chair of IHA, stressed the importance of strategic partnerships and innovative investment frameworks in unlocking the necessary capital to realize Africa's hydropower potential. “We need to turn aspirations into action, propelling Africa towards a future powered by clean, sustainable energy,” he said.

The launch of the Africa section of the 2024 World Hydropower Outlook sets the stage for broader discussions on the continent's energy future, with the full report slated for release on 12 June 2024.