Bridging the Power Gap in Angola

Power Africa
6 min readMar 18, 2021

Power Africa Partners to Build Critical Energy Infrastructure

Portuguese version

Transmission line in Angola
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Miguel Almeida

Collaboration between Power Africa, the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the Government of the Republic of Angola is building transmission and distribution infrastructure that will evacuate around 1,000 megawatts (MW) from North to South to improve access to electricity, strengthen the financial viability of the power sector and connect Angola to regional markets.

For decades, Angola’s national electricity grid had major supply gaps: There was no interconnection between the northern, central, and southern parts of the country, leading to regional power shortages and unreliable service. These “grid islands” also contributed to Angola’s relatively low electrification rate of approximately 43 percent in most cities and less than 10 percent in rural areas.

To support the Government of Angola’s goal of 60 percent electrification by 2025, Power Africa and the AfDB are working together to expand electricity infrastructure, facilitate new electricity connections for homes and businesses, and ultimately contribute to Angola’s continued economic development.

Power Africa and the AfDB are working together to increase energy access in Angola. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Claudio

AfDB’s Half Billion Dollar Loan to Angola

In March 2020, the AfDB announced a loan to the Government of Angola to improve and expand Angola’s transmission capacity and connect 1.2 million new customers to the grid.

One part of the AfDB’s Energy Sector Efficiency and Expansion Program (ESEEP) entails the construction of a 343-kilometer (km), 400 kilovolt transmission line that will join the northern, central and southern “grid islands” for the first time. This new transmission infrastructure will allow for the evacuation of around 1,000 MW of primarily low-cost hydropower from the northern Kwanza River basin to the capital region and population centers in the South, providing an opportunity to replace less-efficient and more expensive diesel-powered generation facilities with cleaner options. The integration of power systems across the country will also address power shortages and improve grid reliability.

The map shows the intended 343 km transmission line between Huambo and Lubango (in green). The red lines are existing 400 kV lines in the North. Source: AfDB ESEEP I Project Appraisal Report

Power Africa is providing technical advisory and capacity building to Angola’s national electricity transmission company, Empresa Rede Nacional de Transporte de Electricidade (RNT), that has the mandate to complete the AfDB-funded Central–South transmission line project.

Empowering Local Project Management

RNT operates like many utilities in the region; they are often thinly stretched across multiple activities, with limited resources, which can lead to delays in project implementation.

Power Africa began working with RNT in October 2019 to establish and operationalize a project implementation unit (PIU) to manage the procurement and planning aspects of the transmission project. The PIU will serve as a center of excellence throughout the full project life cycle (and future transmission projects) and a single repository of all project information and documents. Having a capable and functional PIU improves project governance, reporting, standardization of processes, and RNT’s project management capabilities.

Throughout the process to set up the PIU, Power Africa worked to strengthen local capacities through “knowledge transfer” training and providing on-the-job experience for RNT staff on overall program management, environment and social management, risk mitigation, and engineering and procurement requirements and processes. Understanding the different PIU functional areas and developing the necessary skills, behaviors, and attributes to efficiently manage tasks and outputs is critical for RNT to advance project-related activities and meet key milestones within the AfDB’s required funding timelines.

Key support areas to RNT included:

  • Determination of essential functions required in a PIU and developing an organogram
  • Evaluation of staff competencies and providing capacity building to address gaps
  • Assignment of PIU team members to respective functions
  • Review of internal processes and stakeholder relationships
  • Preparation of the PIU budget
  • Set up of digital platforms for data sharing (and storing) and document collaboration (and approval)
  • Drafting procurement documents and notices and evaluating bids (expressions of interest, terms of reference, technical evaluation reports)
  • Facilitating the procurement of technical consultants and contractors needed for the project
  • Development and implementation of an environmental and social management system
  • Identification of risks and the establishment of mitigation plans
  • Development of a project charter, governance structure, work plan, and manual

Moving Forward in a Global Pandemic

In March 2020, COVID-19 travel restrictions resulted in the cancellation of key in-person workshops and training sessions. Despite these challenges, Power Africa’s technical advisory team and RNT continued to move activities forward by conducting virtual workshops across focal areas such as engineering, procurement, and environmental management.

In September 2020, the AfDB approved RNT’s work plan and the first disbursement of funds. RNT is currently at the pre-qualification stage for the construction of the Central–South transmission line and associated substations and in the final stage of procuring consulting services for the development and implementation of a resettlement action plan. RNT is further in the process of evaluating technical proposals for the Owner’s Engineer — an independent consulting firm that plays a supporting role to the technical project management — and will soon begin recruiting for a monitoring and supervisory consultant. Construction is planned to start at the beginning of 2022.

“We managed to reach many of the acquisition and project milestones, regardless of the many challenges that 2020 brought (which included new ways of working), and as the RNT PIU, we would like to thank Power Africa for the role it played in the project in November 2019 when we were establishing the PIU, and in the beginning of 2020 when we started to operationalize it. We look forward to the continued collaboration on this important project that will benefit the Angolan people in the future.

“I am very happy to be part of this exciting journey. I learned a lot and I look forward to what’s to come. Thanks to the collaborative effort and support from the AfDB and Power Africa, RNT is well on its way to implementing the Central–South transmission project,” Engineer Francisca Pereira, RNT PIU Project Coordinator.

Facilitating Regional Power Trade

A reliable, unconstrained, and robust power transmission network plays a fundamental role in bridging sub-Saharan Africa’s electricity demand and supply gap. Transmission is critical to unlocking generation and distribution and bringing power to those who need it most. As a result, Power Africa is focusing investment on transmission infrastructure projects and associated training to strengthen utilities’ capacities to implement these projects.

Mapping out the procurement action plan with RNT during a training workshop in Luanda in November 2019
Mapping out the procurement action plan with RNT during a training workshop in Luanda in November 2019. Photo Credit: Power Africa

Power Africa’s focus on transferring skills and knowledge to help RNT manage this and future transmission projects is key for economic development, energy self-reliance, and building sustainable human and institutional capacity. The collective efforts of the AfDB, Power Africa and the Government of Angola will ultimately improve electricity access for people, industries, and businesses across Angola.

The new electricity transmission infrastructure will pave the way for the Angola–Namibia (ANNA) interconnection project, which will facilitate power trade between the two countries and enable Angola to join the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) for the first time, opening markets for cross-border trade and regional supply/demand balancing.

For more on the role of transmission in increasing access to electricity, please see the Power Africa Transmission Roadmap.



Power Africa

A U.S. Government-led partnership that seeks to add 30,000 MW and 60 million electricity connections in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 >