New technology and the rise of renewables are changing Africa's energy sector, creating opportunities for companies to capitalise on the continent's power gaps, writes Shoshana Kedem.
Ageing infrastructure and power shortages have long been an obstacle to energy projects in Africa.
But these challenges, along with Africa's growing energy demands, are driving development in global renewable energy such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and solar micro-grids, according to Jamie Shepherd, CEO of Altaaqa Global Energy Services, the Dubai-based provider of integrated energy solutions.
"Energy is an exciting place to be at the moment," he said. "It's changing very rapidly from a technology point of view; the market in Africa is very opportunistic.
"Compared to Europe or North America, there's huge latent demand from unconnected people and there's lots of very clever solutions you can come up with to deliver sustainable power projects across Africa. That's exciting. You get to do a lot of firsts in Africa, such as the first hybrid project, so I see the continent very much as a frontier."
Dispersed populations, gaping infrastructure gaps, and insufficient grid scale and capacity, leave swathes of the continent without access to central power grids. This is driving demand for smaller-scale, decentralised off-grid solutions, such as solar micro-grids.
These cheap, clean energy sources will play a growing role in solving future capacity shortages, powering rural pockets and driving intercontinental connectivity, said Shepherd.
"Micro-grids are really what's going to push connectivity of Africa going forward. With government resources for infrastructure projects limited, private companies are leading the charge in bringing micro-grids and the technology they need to function to rural parts of the continent.
"Turning to micro-grids is the only way the large population of unconnected people throughout the continent can become connected because governments are facing challenges in terms of funds to spend on massive infrastructure projects like that," said Shepherd.
"What's really interesting about that model is that not only are they driving electricity, they provide Wi-Fi and crop irrigation, even chicken hatchlings that they can brood using electric bulbs and sell at market, so it almost becomes a self-sustaining economy.
"The idea is to increase the economic benefit. It's not just a micro-grid, it's a micro-economy, and that will be...