Shining a Light on Africa’s Energy Poverty
By admin November 1, 2016

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Zimbabwean twins ead and write by candlelight  in the capital Harare

Currently, only one in three Africans has access to electricity, according to a new World Bank Report “Making Power Affordable for Africa and Viable for Its Utilities”. The report analyzes data from thirty-nine Sub-Saharan countries, underlining an overall lag in electricity generation capacity, per capita electricity consumption, and household access to electricity. Regarding access to electricity, when it is compared with other indicators, such as poverty, Africa results are way behind all other regions. The report underlines a worrying situation, as out of thirty-nine countries studied, only Uganda and the Seychelles were able to recover their operational and capital costs. As for the rest of the region, large funding gaps are preventing African consumers from having full access to reliable electricity and they are also contributing to blocking the demand expansion.

Sub-Saharan Africa hosts nearly one billion inhabitants but its total electricity generation capacity is less than 100 gigawatts. In comparison, this is less than Spain’s total generation capacity, a country with a population of 46 million people. According to the World Bank 2015 Global Tracking Framework Report, the region includes 13 of the top 20 countries in the world with the largest number of people without electricity. The report states the determinant role of utilities’ financial stability and the ability of households to afford tariffs as fundamental for sub-Saharan Africa’s electricity sector, especially when it comes to its ability to meet demand and to widen access. However, the study highlights the correlation between infrastructure development going hand in hand with economic development as fundamental in providing sustainable local and regional growth. In fact, increasing GDP per capita usually entails better roads, power system, railways among others infrastructures, which significantly improve countries’ development.

The study outlines some of the steps to be undertaken by governments in order to fill both the demand and the financial gaps: first of all, the need to improve operational efficiency in order to reduce countries’ deficits. With a significant reduction of transmission, distribution and bill collection losses, deficits could be eliminated in one-third of the countries. Secondly, operational efficiency also has to be combined with raising tariffs in most of the countries, which they might find common acceptance as long as electricity is reliable. Thirdly, the individual metering system would allow distinguishing households from electricity consumption and therefore it would help utilities to target subsidies better. Finally, indeed a main priority has to be that of providing access to electricity to those who cannot afford it. Possibly, the idea of sharing connection costs would allow the poor to have direct access to reliable electricity while they are also contributing to the expenses.

According to the World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, ”we won’t be able to accelerate progress towards universal access without improving the performance of utilities in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Indeed, access to reliable and safe electricity has the potential to change and improve lives in sub-Saharan Africa as people can be more productive, children can study at night and hospitals can provide more and better assistance. “Making electricity connections and consumption more affordable while minimizing utilities’ financial losses is therefore a priority”, he continued.

For more information:

How Africa’s Electricity Providers Can Be Profitable

Powering Africa

World Energy Outlook – Focus On Africa

Lighting A Dark Continent

Why Are 600 Million Africans Still Without Power?



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