Africa and locally produced hydroelectric power

One inescapable measure of investment, is return on investment (ROI). The type of ROI depends on the type of investment. Measuring or viewing ROI from the point at which newly built and commissioned hydroelectric facilities begin generating power requires several lenses.

I view ROI for hydro investment in Africa through the local lens. My local lens views how people nearest the generating facility can afford its generated power. But, my lens also allows me to see what it is the locals possess that consumes generated energy at levels which can sustain ROI for the initial power facility.

It is here my lens experiences occlusions. For example, if the locals’ standard of living and infrastructure make it impossible to afford power consuming devices, does one really need a generating facility?

OK. So, sell the power to those who need the energy for their society. Now, long distance transmission lines enter the picture. In addition to power transmission, who will maintain the facility? Locals or the folks who built the facility?

The World Bank says the exploitation of Africa’s hydro potential has historically been hampered by a mismatch between demand and supply that has not been able to be overcome by long-distance transmission line infrastructure.

Africa holds great potential for hydro investment because it has vast amounts of untapped geographical features well-suited for hydroelectric power generation.

Realizing that I am neither an economist nor on the ground in Africa, I nonetheless have an opinion about what I see as a means to bring local need to the level of supporting a hydroelectric facility.


Reports indicate the textile industry is moving from Southeast Asia to Africa. If the trend continues, could the need to power a burgeoning textile industry in Africa be one of the key components to locals having the ability to pay for locally generated power?

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for

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