22 of May 2017

New Atlas shows energy potential of Africa and opportunities for investment to meet Africa’s energy needs

UN Environment and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have recently released an Atlas describing Africa’s energy potential and opportunities for investment to meet its energy needs at the World Economic Forum on Africa being held in Durban, South Africa.

The ‘Atlas of Africa Energy Resources’ examines the challenges and opportunities in providing Africa’s population with access to reliable, affordable and modern energy services, and advocates for investments in green energy infrastructure to enhance economic development and help the continent achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Energy consumption in Africa is the lowest in the world, and per capita consumption has barely changed since 2000. Current energy production in Africa is insufficient to meet demand. About a third of the total African population still lacks access to electricity and 53% of the population depends on biomass for cooking, space heating, and drying.

Prepared in cooperation with the Environment Pulse Institute, United States Geological Survey and George Mason University, the Atlas consolidates the information on the energy landscape in Africa. It provides information in the form of detailed ‘before and after’ images, charts, maps and other satellite data from 54 countries through visuals detailing the challenges and opportunities in providing Africa’s population with access to reliable, affordable and modern energy services.

Main findings and key concerns in the Atlas:

  • Africa has the world’s lowest per capita energy consumption: with 16 percent of the world’s population (1.18 billion people out of 7.35 billion) it consumes about 3.3 percent of global primary energy.
  • Over the world’s 20 countries with the least access to electricity, thirteen are in Africa, including Mozambique and Angola.
  • With current trends, it will take Africa until 2080 to achieve full access to electricity.
  • Of all energy sources, Africa consumes most oil (42 per cent of its total energy consumption) followed by gas (28 percent), coal (22 percent), hydro (6 percent), renewable energy (1 percent) and nuclear (1 percent).
  • Africa’s renewable energy resources are diverse, unevenly distributed and enormous in quantity — almost unlimited solar potential (10 TW), abundant hydro (350 GW), wind (110 GW) and geothermal energy sources (15 GW).
  • Nearly 60 percent of refrigerators used in health clinics in Africa have unreliable electricity, compromising the safe storage of vaccines and medicines; half of the vaccines are ruined due to lack of refrigeration.
  • Energy from biomass accounts for more than 30 percent of the energy consumed in Africa and more than 80 percent in many sub-Saharan African countries. Indoor pollution from biomass cooking — a task usually carried out by women — will soon kill more people than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has undiscovered, but technically recoverable, energy resources estimated at about 115.34 billion barrels of oil and 21.05 trillion cubic metres of gas.
  • More women than men suffer from energy poverty.


The Atlas of Africa Energy Resources features over 64 maps and 73 satellite images as well as some 50 graphics and hundreds of compelling photos. The Atlas makes a major contribution to the state of knowledge on energy sector in Africa by highlighting the opportunities and challenges for sustainable development of the energy resources on the continent.

The Atlas aims to facilitate access to information and energy data for all actors, including donors, African governments, and the private sector.


All the materials in the Atlas are non-copyrighted and available for free use, as long as the Atlas is acknowledged as the source.

Access the Atlas here.


All images from the atlas including individual satellite images and other graphics can be downloaded from www.unep.org  and www.enviropulse.org