Damming the Empire: British Attitudes on Hydropower Development in Africa, 1917-1960,

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Introduction. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Africa has once again assumed the label of the Dark Continent. A satellite picture of the continent at night shows the disparity between electricity use in Africa as compared to other regions of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa consumes on average 350 kWh per capita compared to 3750 kWh for European nations. Only 4 percent of rural Africans are connected to national electricity grids. In many African nations, the majority of this power derives from water. In recent decades, drought and increased water use have reduced the amount of hydropower available, while poor management and decaying infrastructure continue to hinder the production, transmission, and distribution of electricity. The 1990s saw the institution of power rationing in Ghana and Tanzania. In 2004, Uganda imposed a 12-hour a day load-shedding schedule. The recent power shortages in South Africa, a major exporter of electricity to neighboring countries, have left millions in the dark and the region's lucrative mines at a standstill; the economic impact of the recent shortages will not be known for years. As oil prices rise, African nations and their international funders are once again looking to waterways as potential sources of power.