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Africa's energy consumption growing fastest in world

Africa's energy demands are skyrocketing, but with 64 recent major discoveries of fuel deposits, it is in a good position to meet its needs.

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A worker is seen at an oil exploration site in Bulisa district, approximately 152 miles northwest of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. As Africa continues to develop, energy demands and production are growing.

Tullow Oil Uganda/Reuters

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As the sun sets over Africa each day, instead of flicking a light switch or heating up the oven, most people put a match to a kerosene lantern or a burning ember to a charcoal stove. 

Africa, home to 15 percent of the world’s population, consumes just 3 percent of the world's energy output, and 587 million people, including close to three-quarters of those living in sub-Saharan Africa, still have no access to electricity via national grids.

But the situation is changing, and swiftly. At 4.1 percent growth, Africa’s per capita energy consumption is growing faster than that of any other country, driven by improved infrastructure, inward investment, and efforts to tackle corruption.

Meanwhile, in the past five years, there have been 64 major discoveries of potential new fuel supplies – mostly oil and gas deposits. Of those, 13 were found in the first eight months of 2012 alone.

“The potential impact is ginormous,” says Bob McBean, former managing director of Dubai Natural Gas Company and now chairman of Wentworth Resources, an oil and gas exploration and production firm in Tanzania.

“It’s very, very exciting, and it constantly puts me in mind of natural resource finds in the Gulf 20 years ago. Assuming everybody comes onto the same page in terms of financing and regulation, there’s no reason why there should be any national power shortages at all in the future,” he adds.

Holding Africa back

That ambition cannot be realized too soon.

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