In recent years, energy security has become a major concern for countries across the globe. Energy security is projected to emerge as a major challenge for countries both at the domestic as well as international level. The accelerated economic growth of India has contributed towards the growing energy demand. Coal and hydrocarbons are the primary energy resources on which India is heavily dependent to meet its energy demand. India has huge deposits but the quality is comparatively poor. Huge amount of oil and gas is demanded by the transport and defence sector. The stagnation in the domestic production and the rising demand for energy has increased imports dependency. India is heavily dependent on oil and gas imports mainly from the countries in West Asia. Along with hydrocarbons, renewable energy has also occupied a significant position in India’s energy mix. India being fourth largest emitter of carbon and adhere to the Paris protocol is looking at alternatives such as renewable energy to address the challenge of climate change. As the demand for energy is increasing, India has made attempts to diversify its energy basket. In this regard, Africa is considered as one of the alternatives that India can look at.
Africa is rich in natural resources and has huge deposits of bauxite, coal, oil and gas as well as uranium. It has emerged as a hotbed for resources, thereby attracting foreign investments. Africa accounts for 3.6 percent of the world’s coal reserves, 7.5 percent of natural gas and 7.6 percent of world’s oil reserves. Uranium deposits are spread across a number of countries including Namibia, South Africa, Niger, Nigeria and Malawi. Solar, Hydro, Wind and Geothermal are some of the important sources of renewable energy. Africa has abundant hydropower (350 GW), wind (110 GW) and Geo-thermal energy (15GW). It is estimated that 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. The East and West part of Africa are resource rich. Coal, Natural Gas, Petroleum and Uranium are some of the major resources found in East Africa. New oil deposits are being discovered in different countries in East Africa. Kenya, South Sudan, Mozambique, Eritrea, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia are some of the resource rich countries in East Africa. Similarly the countries in West Africa such as Nigeria, Niger, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast and Mauritania are some of the major exporters of resources. Nigeria and Angola are considered as major oil destination and their economy are heavily dependent on the resource exports.
The renewable energy resources mentioned above are very important for India because of various challenges. For the last few decades, India has been experiencing economic growth that has increased concern for the limited energy resources and its contribution to address the challenge of climate change. The climate-energy issue is a major challenge for India as it is the second largest populated country in the world and the population is expected to grow in the next two decades. India ranks fourth in the total energy consumption but its per capita emission of carbon dioxide is comparatively low to the world average of 4.4 tonnes. This trend is expected to continue until 2030 as the resources are getting exhausted regardless of India being one of the largest energy producer. As per the electrification rate of India, approximately 90 percent of India’s total population have access to electricity. Outage and energy poverty is said aggravating the energy dilemma. India primarily depends on coal and oil to meet its energy requirements.
Renewable energy is considered to be important both for India as well as Africa. Like India, the African continent has huge sources of renewable energy. Solar and hydropower are considered to be the two most important sources that has gained demand in the last few years. Due to its cost effective nature, many countries have used renewable energy sources for power generation. Along with solar, hydro power is also used in large scale and continues to help in the generation of power. One of the priority for Africa has been to use its energy resources and improve its economic condition. Africa has 16 percent of the global population but consumes only 3.3 percent of its primary energy. More than 30 percent of the energy consumed in Africa and about 80 percent in Sub-Saharan African countries comes from biomass.
There are various points were the interests of India and Africa converge such as the use of biomass, dependence on fossil fuel for electricity generation, the growing demand for renewable energy and the use of nuclear energy. Africa has the resources but lacks the technology required for generation of power. It has been looking for partners to cooperate and address the challenges faced by the continent. Cooperation with India will help Africa to increase its expertise in the rural electrification process. Similarly, partnership with African companies will help the continent in achieving alternative energy sources as many of the African countries do not have access to hydrocarbon resources and those who have access, need cleaner fuel to address the challenge of climate change.
Along with renewables, nuclear energy is considered important for power generation both by India and Africa. In India’s case, nuclear energy forms a small portion of India’s energy mix and attempts are being made to increase nuclear power capacity. However, India has limited uranium deposits and is dependent on the imports. India borrows most of its uranium from Kazakhstan. Africa is another alternative for India to diversify its uranium imports. As of 2019, eighteen percent of the world’s uranium reserves are held by three African nations. Niger has seven percent of world’s reserves of uranium followed by six percent in Namibia and five percent in South Africa. Among these countries, South Africa is the only country that has been using nuclear power to generate electricity. India has been successful in getting NSG waiver however, this advantage needs to be utilised to import uranium from South Africa. India has made an attempt to import uranium from Namibia but no substantial progress has been achieved so far.
India and Africa have been collaborating in various sectors mainly hydrocarbons. Nigerian oil constitutes around 14 percent of India’s total oil imports. Apart from Nigeria, India is tapping resources in other oil rich African countries. In return for the resources, India has been providing capacity building measures to resource rich African nations. With regards to renewable energy, India and France have collaborated to develop International Solar Alliance. The main aim of this is to provide a platform for solar rich countries wherein they can cooperate at bilateral and multilateral level to achieve common objectives of using solar energy to meet the energy demand. Out of the 122 countries, 27 African countries have signed and ratified the framework of International Solar Alliance. The cooperation mainly focuses on providing financial assistance to promote the use of solar energy, beneficial for the African countries. It also provides the necessary instruments required by these countries. Such initiatives have helped India and Africa to widen their area of cooperation and move beyond the traditional sectors of cooperation.
The shared colonial history and common security challenges have placed India as a reliable partner for Africa. The goodwill that exists between India and Africa needs to be taken advantage of, to enhance the level of cooperation. The increasing population is a challenge for both India and Africa. India’s increased efforts in capacity building and strengthening cooperation with African nations has been favoured by the business class as well as the political elites. In this context, India can provide its technical assistance in building Africa’s renewable energy capacities and can gain from India’s overall development. Though government to government engagement will be beneficial in strengthening the cooperation, the role of private players needs to be enhanced to reap maximum benefits. Extensive cooperation in different sectors of energy will help in setting up a base for long-term relationship mainly with regards to energy security.
Image credit: Kenueone [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Geopolitics.
Meghna Ria Muralidharan is currently pursuing her MPhil in the Center for African Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. She received her postgraduate degree in Geopolitics and International Relations from Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE). Her area of interest is Diaspora Politics, including the role of Indian diaspora across the globe especially in Africa.