All 19 of the African nations assessed for Climatescope 2014 are sub-Saharan and are relatively well distributed between the continent’s eastern, western and southern regions. But there the similarities end as the list includes both regional powerhouses, like South Africa and Kenya, and those facing very distinct development challenges, such as Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The power sector has until recent years been neglected in many African countries, leaving them with a lack of reliable power and decades-old hydro and fossil fuel plants and insubstantial grid provision. Clean energy has therefore come to the fore in discussions around Africa’s sustainable growth and poverty reduction.

More than half the power capacity installed is in South Africa. In fact, South Africa’s coal plants alone (37.7GW) add up to more capacity than all the other 18 African countries put together. The next largest power system is in Nigeria, at 10.2GW. Kenya and Uganda owe their high positions to both the conducive policy frameworks they have established to incentivize renewable energy development and to the relatively extensive networks of service providers present in both countries.

Nigeria and Ghana were the highest ranking West African countries. Both have introduced power sector reforms and feed-in tariffs – but have yet to record an influx of investment. Both are likely to see an uptick in the near term, with significant project pipelines emerging.

No African countries apart from South Africa scored highly on the carbon market activity and policy indicators. In general, African countries have seen far less Clean Development Mechanism activity compared with Asia due to the current program rules and a dearth of financing, while there are few emissions reduction policies or corporate strategies in place.

It should be noted that 18 of the African nations (all but South Africa) were assessed using Climatescope’s “off-grid focus” methodology. For them, the survey’s focus shifted more toward questions of energy access and the role that clean energy can play in facilitating it.

Average scores

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