Heart of Darkness: Why Electricity for Africa Is a Security Issue

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: With over a billion people, Africa suffers from a devastating energy deprivation that is blocking human health and development across its 54 countries. Life expectancy, educational attainment, and personal incomes are all well below other regions. The main problem centers on a lack of access to the driving force behind modernity: electric power. Africa’s poor energy condition is a global security concern because it impedes industrialization. And young men in particular typically struggle to find jobs, resorting to crime and even terrorist networks. Until full energy connectivity is achieved, this underbelly “dark side” will continue to tempt too many in this great land. The good news is that international companies and organizations still realize the high potential of Africa. And the recent progress of Latin America and China offers hope for its evolution. All energy sources need apply. 

Now the forgotten “land of darkness,” horrific energy deprivation in Africa is based on a lack of access to electricity, the sine qua non of a modern society.

The numbers are as shocking as they are unacceptable.

More than 600 million Africans – half the population – are not on the power grid. The U.S. uses more electricity in a day than Ghana or Tanzania generate in a year.

This has effectively made industrialization impossible and created a drastic shortage of economical and educational opportunities.

Too often it seems that many of Africa’s huge energy challenges go unreported, unless experienced first hand by Westerners themselves.

For example, higher altitudes for Africa’s cities can mean extreme cold, making an already difficult life utterly unbearable and ultimately abridged. Of the world’s 30 highest capitals, half are in Africa.

Not just blocking human health and development, Africa’s poverty, enabled by a lack of access to modern energy, is a global security problem because militia and terror groups are a magnet for such young men without jobs.

Investors remain keen on the continent, however, but a lack of capacity keeps them away.

Despite some progress in recent years, it is clear that so much more is required in Africa.

The world must look at the recent advancement in Latin America and China to understand what could be for Africa.

In fact, both are now close to full energy connectivity, with quantifiable benefits for their local human development indicators. 

Looking forward, as we have seen in the rich Western world, fossil fuels should remain the centerpiece play in Africa.

Yet still, there is also no doubt that renewable energy systems such as wind and solar have a vital role to play in advancing such an energy-deprived and rural land (e.g., Africa is just 40% urbanized, versus over 80% in Western Europe and the U.S.).


Read the full study here

Feature Charticle

Africa's Capital Cities: High Altitudes, Lack of Electricity Access



  • Africa’s energy deprivation centers on a lack of access to electricity, the sine qua non of a modern society.
  • These shortages have blocked human advancement, industrialization, and economic development.
  • In turn, young men in particular have been easily brought to a life of crime to make ends meet, pushing some to even join international terrorist networks.
  • Africa still offers much promise though, and the recent energy connectivity evolutions in Latin America and China show what could be for Africa. 

Read the full study here