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Status of Cleaner Energy Development in Agro-industries of Eastern & Southern Africa


Stephen Karekezi


This report is one of the first batch of outputs of the AGRICEN project, a collaborative initiative that seeks to better understand the current status and potential of cleaner energy development in the agro-industrial sector of eastern and southern Africa. Targeting five pilot countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania), the AGRICEN project involves two research universities in the UK (Surrey University) and Malawi (Lilongwe University), an independent energy institute in Kenya (AFREPREN/FWD) and two UK expert institutions (Policy Practice and Gamos).

This report is AGRICEN/AFREPREN/FWD-team’s first initial effort to provide a quick scan of the current status and potential of cleaner energy development in the sub-region’s agro-industries. It starts by providing a quick broad brush review of the importance of agriculture and associated agro-industries in the economic development of Africa and, more specifically, the sub-region of eastern Africa, ranging from its impact on GDP growth rates and employment to exports. The first chapter includes a brief discussion of the challenges facing sub-Saharan Africa agricultural sector whose share of global agriculture export earnings have been declining since the independence era and now accounts for less than 2% of the world’s agriculture export market –a share that is less than that of Thailand, a country of only about 68 million people – less than 10% of the Sub-Saharan Africa’s population (Worldbank, 2014). Cleaner energy development could contribute to reversing this worrisome historical decline of Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of world agriculture export pie.

The report then turns to the potential of cleaner energy development in various key agro-industries in the sub-region. Focusing on the sugar and tea sectors, the report demonstrates that there are already a significant number of operational cleaner energy plants built by agro-industries with Mauritius being the clear leader – over 50% of the country’s electricity is supplied by the country’s sugar sector (Central Electricity Board, 2013). Although no mainland African country has been able to replicate the success of Mauritius, ambitious plans of several leading agro-industrial companies in the region point to the possibility of several countries following Mauritius successful path of agro-based cleaner energy development.

The report ends with a brief review of some of the key policy measures required to accelerate agro-industry-based cleaner energy development with a special focus on feed-in-tariffs, policies and tools for ensuring energy feedstock security for cleaner energy plants in the agro-industrial sector of the sub-region.

In conclusion, available data indicates that, there is an estimated 269.2MW of installed cogeneration capacity in AGRICEN target countries of Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia and Tanzania. This implies that the region has close to US$ 0.4billion of cogeneration investment (assuming an investment of about US$1.5million per MW). It is estimated that 611.4MW of cogen investment is in the pipeline in the AGRICEN region which translates to potential pipeline investment of US$0.9billion.

In addition to providing a substantially large investment opportunity, the cogeneration sector in the region has been able to deliver cleaner energy at substantially lower costs than many other competing renewables (as demonstrated by the lower feed in tariffs for biomass based cogeneration announced by several AGRICEN countries).

This paper is available on an exchange basis. If you find it to be useful, we encourage you to send us any relevant publications from your organization. To request for the full paper, please fill in the publications request form

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