Category Archives: Congo

What does 2024 have in store for renewables in Africa?

February 1st, 2024 By Ben Payton Image : rufous / Adobe Stock

The private sector is playing an ever increasing role, but grid capacity constraints and macroeconomic headwinds pose key challenges
February 1st, 2024
At the beginning of 2024 Africa has come to a key juncture in its renewable energy rollout.

The potential of technologies such as wind and solar energy to help close the continent’s energy access gap is now beyond doubt. Across Africa, however, there are multiple challenges in accelerating the speed and scale of the drive for renewables.

Roughly half of Africa’s population, around 600m people, lacks access to electricity; millions more endure an unreliable or intermittent supply.

Solar, in particular, has a key role in bringing more reliable access. Most of Africa enjoys excellent conditions for solar generation; and solar is well-suited for both utility-scale projects and smaller schemes designed to serve homes and businesses in remote areas.

Last year’s COP28 climate conference, along with the Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi last September, reaffirmed the importance of renewables on the continent.

But whether 2024 will see donors and development finance institutions (DFIs) turn commitments into action remains to be seen. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that $28bn in concessional capital is needed each year up to 2030 to mobilise $90bn in private sector investment – a more than tenfold increase from the present level.

Technologies mature

Hydropower, which has played a key role in the power sectors of many African countries for decades, remains the leading source of renewable energy on the continent. However, it is solar that is increasingly emerging as the main source of new capacity.

According to the African Solar Industry Association (AFSIA), the continent installed a record 3.7 GW in 2023, representing year-on-year growth of 19%. AFSIA notes that utility-scale solar projects are less common in Africa than in the United States, Europe or China. By contrast, it says 65% of the capacity added last year came from commercial and industrial projects – a large share of which are in South Africa.

“In [the] absence of reliable utility companies and grids supplying the required electricity, African companies and businesses finally have found an alternative with solar and storage thanks to plummeting prices of both key components,” AFSIA said in a report.

Meanwhile, cash-strapped utilities are increasingly looking to the private sector to supply electricity from large-scale wind and solar projects to the grid. In South Africa, a bidding round for independent power producer (IPP) projects, which will conclude in April, will be crucial for efforts to end the country’s disastrous power shortages.

Zambia is another country where the government is turning to the private sector, as it looks to extend electricity access to 60% of its population by 2030. Reforms introduced by President Hakainde Hichilema have facilitated private investment in the power market, with a focus on streamlining regulator approvals.

“Most renewable energy projects will continue to be financed at an increasing rate by the private sector in Zambia,” says Kusobile Kamwambi, head of the country’s Presidential Delivery Unit.

But one challenge, likely to become ever more evident in 2024, is that electricity grids in many African countries are struggling to absorb the power supplied by renewables. In Zambia, for example, ZESCO has set a cap of 50 MW on IPP projects – a limit that makes investment less attractive for some players in the sector.

Grids and batteries

The electricity shortages in countries such as South Africa highlight the importance of upgrading grid infrastructure at both the national and regional levels. Holger Rothenbusch, managing director and head of infrastructure and climate at British International Investment, the UK’s DFI, says that investment in cross-border transmission infrastructure will increase. He notes that there are “many exciting prospects” in decentralised renewable energy systems, which enable renewable generation in areas where grid access remains difficult.

“We are starting to see the potential of mini-grids to bring power to countries such as DRC and Burundi with historically low rates of access,” he says.
“Projects are being delivered with attractive financing models such as grants and private capital to mitigate offtake risk.”

Source: African Business , 1st February 2024


DRC, South Africa, Botswana… Who has the greatest potential in critical minerals?

Zimbabwe has one of the world’s largest reserves of lithium; treatment plant in Goromonzi, in the country’s north-east. (© Montage JA; Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/SIPA)

Rich in minerals and strategically located, in theory the African continent has what it takes to play a key role in the ongoing energy transition, but the reality is more complex.

“There is no chance of making the energy transition without Africa,” Robert Friedland, the founder of Ivanhoe Mines, who discovered the Kamoa-Kakula copper deposit in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), told the London Indaba conference on mineral resources, energy and mining in June last year.

Indeed, decisive resources for a low-carbon economy are abundant in Africa. The continent’s production of metals used in the manufacture of batteries, solar panels, wind turbines and other electrical networks is impressive.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the leading producer of cobalt, while South Africa is in pole position for platinum and manganese.

As a whole, the continent accounts for more than half the world’s production of these three minerals.

Source: African Report, 18th January 2024


Félix Tshisekedi: DR Congo’s re-elected president

At the beginning of his first term in office in 2019, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi vowed to make his country “the Germany of Africa”.

He promised to grow the economy and create jobs for the people, in a country with massive resources but whose population was living in poverty.

In his first four years in power, he did not achieve his ambitious goal of transforming such a vast country, but now he has a second chance after he was declared the winner of a chaotic election. He is due to be sworn in for a second term on 20 January.

Mr Tshisekedi first came into power in unusual circumstances.

He was declared the surprise winner of a disputed presidential election, which some, including the influential Catholic Church, had challenged.

His main rival Martin Fayulu alleged that outgoing President Joseph Kabila had engineered a secret deal for Mr Tshisekedi to succeed him – charges that were strongly denied.

Mr Fayulu and other opposition candidates have also said the 2023 election was marred by fraud and demanded a rerun. The electoral commission has dismissed such claims as sour grapes.

Until a few years before the 2018 election, Mr Tshisekedi was largely untested in high-level DR Congo politics.

He was more known for who he was related to – he is the son of the veteran late opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi.

He however did not simply cash in on his father’s name and was immersed in politics from a very young age, and worked his way up through the party ranks.

He also had to suffer the consequences of his father’s political activism.

When Tshisekedi senior founded the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party (known by its French initials UDPS) in 1982, the family was forced into internal exile in their home town in the central Kasai province.

Étienne Tshisekedi founded the UDPS in 1982, turning it into the country’s largest opposition party

They stayed there until 1985, when Étienne Tshisekedi’s long-time rival, autocratic leader Mobutu Sese Seko, allowed the mother and children to leave.

Félix Tshisekedi then moved to the Belgian capital, Brussels. After completing his studies there he took up politics, working his way through his father’s party to become national secretary for external affairs for the UDPS.

His father’s former chief of staff, Albert Moleka, told the BBC in 2019 that Mr Tshisekedi “made powerful friends and allies among the diaspora there, but he was sometimes overlooked – and so it wasn’t easy for him”.

Mr Tshisekedi’s inauguration in 2019 inspired some hope, as it was the first peaceful transition of power in the country since independence in 1960.

At his swearing-in ceremony, he told the crowds that he wanted to “build a strong Congo, turned toward development in peace and security – a Congo for all in which everyone has a place”.

Mr Tshisekedi said he would make the fight against poverty a “great national cause”, reduce unemployment and tackle corruption.

In his first term, President Tshisekedi introduced free primary schooling, with enrolment increasing by more than five million students.

The programme has however been criticised for the overcrowding of classrooms in some areas, while teachers remain poorly paid.

The president also introduced free health services for mothers giving birth in preselected heath centres and hospitals in the capital, Kinshasa, which he has promised to extend to the rest of the country if he is re-elected.

He has pushed for a review of the country’s mining contracts with China so it can keep a larger share of its vast mineral wealth.

In a state of the nation address last month, he said the economy had improved, with the national budget having grown nearly three-fold from $6bn (£4.7bn) at the beginning of his tenure to $16bn this year.

We have come a remarkable way since 2020, overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic to achieve rates of economic growth that inspire confidence in the future,” he said.

In spite of the growth, many Congolese have been complaining about the depreciation of the Congolese franc which is having a serious impact on their daily lives.

Despite its vast mineral wealth and huge population, life has not improved for most people, with conflict, corruption and poor governance persisting.

In his re-election campaign, he made some of the same promises he made five years ago, such as creating more jobs, making the economy more resilient and promising to tackle the insecurity that has wracked the east of the country for three decades, leading to the deaths of millions of people.

Supporters of the incumbent president President Felix Tshisekedi gesture in the rain prior to his arrival for a campaign rally in Goma, capital of North Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on December 10, 2023.

Mr Tshisekedi’s supporters point to his investment in schools and healthcare

Much of the country’s natural resources lie in the east where violence still rages despite Mr Tshisekedi’s attempts to deal with the situation by imposing a state of siege, ceasefire deals and bringing in regional troops.

These included a force from the East African Community, which DR Congo joined last year, hoping to improve trade and political ties with its eastern neighbours.

However things have not worked out as planned and Mr Tshisekedi has ordered them to leave, saying they had been ineffective. He has said he wants to replace them with troops from a different trade bloc of which DR Congo is also a member – the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

But there is little sign of them coming any time soon.

Mr Tshisekedi has also demanded the end of the UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo. After more than two decades, it will take some time for the thousands of troops to leave, but it has raised fears of a security vacuum as the army is in no position to take on the numerous rebel groups which operate across eastern DR Congo on its own.

DR Congo’s membership of the EAC is complicated by the fact that Mr Tshisekedi, as well as UN experts, say fellow member Rwanda is backing one of the most active rebel groups in eastern DR Congo, the M23.
Rwanda’s government has strongly denied this but it has led to a souring of relations between Mr Tshisekedi and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, that has defined the end of his first term.

It was not always that way. At the beginning of his term, Mr Tshisekedi initially tried to mend relations with neighbouring countries including Rwanda.

In a surprise gesture, he invited President Kagame to the funeral of his father in May 2019.

In the latter years of his presidency, however, the relationship has become so frosty that Mr Tshisekedi recently compared Mr Kagame to Germany’s World War Two dictator.

While addressing a campaign rally in Bukavu, close to the Rwandan border, Mr Tshisekedi last week said of Mr Kagame: “I promise he will end up like Adolf Hitler.”

Hitler, responsible for the deaths of millions, including six million Jewish people in the Holocaust, ended up taking his own life in a bunker in the German capital, Berlin, in 1945.

The Rwanda’s government described the Congolese president’s comments as “a loud and clear threat”.

In his final rally before the election, he even vowed to declare war on Rwanda if he was re-elected. While he was hoping to whip up nationalist sentiment, most Congolese will be hoping he does not follow through on this pledge.

They would prefer him to stick to his previous goal of creating jobs and transforming the economy, even if turning the country into the “Germany of Africa” remains a distant dream.

Source: BBC, 31st December 2023


Congo reaffirms commitment to OPEC, oil minister says

FILE PHOTO: OPEC logo is seen in this illustration taken, October 8, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo

Dec 23 (Reuters) – Congo on Saturday reaffirmed its commitment to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), days after neighbor Angola decided to leave the organization.

“The Republic of Congo reaffirms its steadfast commitment to the strategic policy defined by the Secretary-General of OPEC and OPEC+,” Congo’s hydrocarbons minister Bruno Jean-Richard Itoua said in a LinkedIn post.

“Congo is committed to continuing close and constructive collaboration with all member countries.”

The development comes after Nigeria on Friday reaffirmed its commitment to OPEC, with minister of state for petroleum Heineken Lokpobiri saying that his country’s position remained unwavering.

Congo, which became a full member of OPEC in 2018, has been set a target of 277,000 barrels per day (bpd) for 2024 by the Saudi-led oil producer group.

Nigeria, which is Africa’s biggest oil producer, and Angola were among several countries given lower output targets for 2024 after years of failing to meet previous ones.

Angola’s Oil Minister Diamantino Azevedo said on Thursday that OPEC no longer served the country’s interests. It joins other mid-sized producers Ecuador and Qatar that have left the organization in the last decade.

Source: Reuters, 23rd December 2023


Congo’s presidential vote is extended as delays and smudged ballots lead to fears about credibility

Voters look for their names outside a polling station in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. Congo headed to the polls Wednesday to vote for president as authorities scrambled to finalise preparations in an election facing steep logistical and security challenges. (AP Photo/Moses Sawasawa)

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Lengthy delays at the polls forced officials on Wednesday to extend voting in Congo’s presidential election as many residents in the mineral-rich West African nation struggled to cast ballots because of steep logistical and security challenges, raising concerns about the integrity of the process.

Polling stations that never opened on Wednesday will conduct voting on Thursday, Denis Kadima, chair of the electoral commission, said on local radio.

Some 44 million people — almost half the population — were expected to vote, but many, including several million displaced by conflict in the vast country’s east, found it difficult to do so. The fighting prevented 1.5 million people from registering to vote.

At stake is the future of one of Africa’s largest nations and one whose mineral resources are increasingly crucial to the global economy. Congo has a history of disputed elections that can turn violent, and there’s little confidence among many Congolese in the country’s institutions.

Source: AP 17 December 2023