Access to Electricity in Africa

While in Lagos, I experienced what it means not to have a regular power supply. So I was happy to hear about “repurpose schoolbags“, schoolbags with a solar panel that charges while kids are in school. In the evening, they can be used as a study lamp. This indigenous innovation was created by two South African women.

Innovations like the “repurpose schoolbag” are to be celebrated. But the underlying problem of electricity access still needs to be solved.

Close to 50 % of the people without access to electricity are in Africa. A look at SSA (sub-Saharan Africa) estimates indicate that:*

  • – more than 620 million people don’t have access to  electricity;
  • – electricity consumption per capita is less than what is needed to power a 50-watt light bulb on a continuous basis;
  • – close to 5% of annual sales are lost due to power outages;
  • – fuel for back-up generation costs at least $5 billion (including for both businesses and households).
Powerless lamp
Lamp for households with no electricity access

It’s clear that this has important social and economic costs. Some governments have not created the electricity infrastructure that they should have. See why this is the case in Nigeria here.

But the future can be brighter. If $200 billion is spent over the period to 2040, the figures will look different:

– 950 million people will gain access to electricity;

– the total number of people without electricity access will decrease   by 15%, though as much as 530 million people will still be in the same situation (this takes population growth into account).

Despite poor electricity supply, GDP has grown by nearly 6% per year across SSA. Imagine what the future could hold in a scenario with a regular power supply!

*Information provided by the World Energy Outlook 2014.

4 thoughts on “Access to Electricity in Africa

    1. Yes, the lack of reliable access to electricity poses an enormous cost to companies — not to talk about individuals…

  1. There are a lot of opportunities, but usually, there is no capacity. And in many areas, you have to pay to help people, like giving some extra to the village major and his clan.

    Many African Countries get development money and support from development agencies like the GIZ. This top down support makes the government independent from their citizens. It destroy democracy and supports corruption somehow.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Nicolas.
      The extra pay to the makor and his clan is at the blurry boundaries of corruption. To the extent that it benefits the community and not particuar individuals, it may make better sense.

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