The countries in Africa with the most power outages

Daily power outages are the norm in South Africa, but other people across the African continent are no strangers to faltering electricity infrastructure. Ailing and old power plants together with a booming population ever more reliant on technology means power systems across Africa are pushed to the limit.

This sometimes means power systems can collapse. In September last year, Nigeria – often remarked as the largest economy in Africa – suffered a nationwide grid collapse. The very thing that the South African government implements loadshedding to avoid.

But while loadshedding is a controlled rotating of blackouts for certain regions, Nigeria’s September nationwide outage was an uncontrolled crisis caused by a fire spreading through and causing an explosion on a major transmission line between two power plants.

When the outage happened, the citizens of Lagos, Nigeria’s capital, responded with surprise, despite the fact that similar rampant outages plague the megacity on the daily

A UK-based utility firm called UtilityBidder used data from the World Bank to tabulate which countries around the world suffered the most power outages that affected businesses. It found that Papua New Guinea had the most unstable energy grid dealing with over 500 unplanned blackouts throughout the year.

The company compiled which African countries dealt with the most unplanned power interruptions a year, and found that Nigeria sat at the top with 394 major outages a year affecting firms. This meant that 15.6 percent of sales from its businesses were affected, at least in 2014. You can find the top 10 countries in the table below:

RankCountryMost Recent Edition of DataNumber of Monthly Power OutagesValue Lost to Power Cuts (% of sales)Annual Number of Power Outages
2Central African Republic201129.025.1%348
5Republic of the Congo200921.516.4%258
9DR Congo201312.37.8%148
10Burkina Faso20099.85.8%118

According to the World Bank, South Africa is the country with the 24th most unplanned power outages, despite the daily plague of loadshedding.

While the list does well to show just how unstable several African countries, and countries on other continents, are in terms of power grids, we have a few issues with the compilation from UtilityBidder.

First off, the data sourced from the World Bank for many of these countries is just too outdated to paint a proper picture. Data from Burkina Faso, for example, is from 2009. That’s 15 years where a multitude of changes could occur. While the company says this is the latest data it could find, it sours the validity of the list at this time.

For example, South Africa’s loadshedding was less severe in 2020, when the list’s data was taken from, than it is now. This of course skews the data, whether or not loadshedding falls in the category of “uncontrolled” or “controlled” outages.

This lack of recent data also imparts some bias, as the UK (where UtilityBidder is from) does not even feature on the list. Perhaps in 2020 the UK was free of power outages, but by the end of 2023 two-thirds of people living in Britain had experienced power cuts, with the average outage lasting two and a half hours.

Russia’s war on Ukraine and other factors like harsh weather conditions influenced by global warming have crippled portions of the UK’s power grid.

Secondly, the calculation the company uses to determine the value of business sales lost to power outages just seems off. “We used The World Bank to find the number of power outages in firms during a typical month for each country. We multiplied the monthly power outages by twelve to reveal each country’s average annual power outages.”

This calculation does not account for so many possible conditions that could affect whether a country has power outages or not. This average, aside from being outdated in most cases, then should be taken with a grain of salt.

For a true list to formed about which African countries experiences the most blackouts, we would require data no older than 2022 at the least. It would also require significant research into the energy infrastructure of each African nation to be able to create a reasonable extrapolation.

Unfortunately the latest data from the World Bank simply doesn’t allow this.

[Image – Photo by Aleksandr Popov on Unsplash]


About Author


Related News