Cameroon’s Energy Policy in Central Africa

In terms of energy policy, Cameroon has great potential in the field of hydropower and as a transit country.

Cameroon in particular has potential as an electricity hub, for electricity exports and imports from neighboring countries. 

Cameroon is a bridgehead between Central Africa and West Africa, a country of contrasts, characterized by different climates and languages. But that is not all, as the country is traversed by a linguistic divide between the two official languages, English and French.  

This of course makes it much more difficult to develop a uniform energy policy for the whole country. A coherent energy strategy could lead to a further unification of the state. The geographical characteristics of Cameroon and the climatic peculiarities of individual regions of the country make it considerably more difficult to commit to strategies that are supported by all regions of Cameroon, especially in the area of energy production.

1. Hydropower can make a significant contribution to the energy supply in southern Cameroon.

The most striking aspect is the enormous potential of hydropower in Cameroon, which can cover a large part of the domestic energy supply. Dams can be built along the tributaries and the mighty Sanaga River, which can cover a large part of the electricity demand in the coastal regions of Nigeria. In fact, Nigeria is not in a position to cover its electricity needs from its own sources and could be dependent on energy imports in the future due to its rapidly growing population, even if Nigeria should be better able to use its domestic oil reserves to generate electricity. 

It must be taken into account, however, that Cameroon, like most of Nigeria, does not have a continuous power grid, especially not beyond the country’s borders. An effective, transnational high-voltage grid must be built for the export and import of electricity before the export of electricity from Cameroon’s future hydroelectric plants to Nigeria is considered.

Recently, the pace of change has accelerated. The interest in building hydroelectric power plants along the Sanaga River has increased again. Energy investors have been made aware of the enormous potential of the Sanga River for hydropower plants. In some calculations the energy potential may correspond to some types of nuclear power plants. Significant investments are being made, such as the Grand Eweng project. 

Looking at the hydropower projects in Cameroon, China and the United States stand out. China has extensive experience with civil engineering projects in the energy industry. With the construction of the new Silk Road, China has become the leading country in the development of a national energy infrastructure. The U.S. and China are currently the most important foreign investors in terms of financing and development of the energy industry.

2. The interests of neighboring countries fit well with Cameroon’s energy policy. Cameroon could be a connecting bridge for the transport of electricity.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is pursuing very similar strategies in energy policy, as it aims to become one of Africa’s largest exporters of electricity through the construction of the Inga dam. To achieve this goal, however, a transcontinental power grid is needed to effectively export electricity across national borders to West Africa and South Africa. Given the population density in the coastal areas of West Africa, the lion’s share of electricity exports will certainly go to West Africa.

3. Solar energy can make a significant contribution to the energy security of remote regions in Cameroon.

Especially in the decentralized regions of Cameroon, it makes sense to use the abundant solar energy to generate electricity. This makes all the more sense as Cameroon does not yet have a fully connected power grid. The electricity generated from hydropower can only be used to a limited extent in the north. This has to do with the enormous losses caused by the enormous distances that would be required to transport the electricity.

The installation of PV systems focused on strategic locations in Cameroon. Foreign investors have joined efforts to build a renewable energy infrastructure that is independent of the national power grid. The installation of solar systems is increasingly spreading throughout the country. This drives economic activity.

4. Cameroon has considerable potential for biofuel production.

There is great potential for the production of biofuels, especially biofuels made from sugar cane and wood residues. When it comes to biofuel production, Cameroon benefits from its equatorial latitude. Biomass can be harvested all year round. In fact, Cameroon is almost as well suited for the production of biofuels as Indonesia.  Let us look at just one example where we see considerable similarities. Jatropha, for example, is an important fuel source for biofuel production in Indonesia. Jatropha is now being cultivated in Cameroon for the production of biofuels. But even more can be achieved. As for sugar cane production, Brazil has made significant progress. Many of the principles could be applied to biodiesel production in Cameroon. 

Biofuel can support the energy independence of Cameroon and promote the development of a decentralized energy system. One point to consider is that Cameroon has easy access to oil supplies from Nigeria, and oil prices have fallen significantly since March 2020. In summary, the production of biofuels in Cameroon is still on the upswing. This requires more investment.

5. Cameroon achieves a higher energy yield with photovoltaics than with wind energy.

Wind energy production should be higher in the north of Cameroon, but is not comparable with offshore locations with strong winds such as the east coast of New York or the North Sea. That is, before considering the problem of storing the electricity generated. Photovoltaics seems to be a better option as a renewable energy source. 

6. Conclusion

PV systems account for only a very small percentage of total primary energy production in Cameroon and neighboring countries. However, the share of solar power in primary energy consumption is growing steadily. Photovoltaic systems will make an important contribution to power generation.

An energy mix of hydropower and solar energy and the associated promotion of a supra-regional power grid should be a central concern. This would be of enormous importance for the development of the energy industry. As an international electricity hub, Cameroon can benefit from transit fees. The development of a transnational power grid to West Africa would benefit the wider region and combine Cameroon’s hydropower potential with Nigeria’s hydrocarbon potential.

Many thanks for the shared interest in the energy world!

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