Still Lacking Reliable Electricity from the Grid, Many Africans Turn to Other Sources

Electricity is a basic prerequisite for human development. The United Nations (UN) highlight “access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy for all” as its Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 7. Electrification powers the provision of resources for economic transformation and improved living conditions, especially for poor people. Globally, access to electricity improved significantly between 2000 and 2019, expanding coverage from 79% of the population to 90%. In sub-Saharan Africa, where basic electricity infrastructure is particularly weak, access improved from 26% to 47% over the same period. But the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are reversing some of these gains. In Africa, up to 30 million people who previously enjoyed access to electricity can no longer afford it. Afrobarometer survey findings from 34 African countries show little progress in electrification. While experiences vary by country, on average access to a power grid improved by just 4 percentage points over the past decade. And even where connections to the grid exist, unreliable supply remains a major problem. Overall, fewer than half of Africans enjoy a dependable supply of electricity from a national grid, with rural residents and poor people at a huge disadvantage. Instead, almost a quarter of Africans rely on other sources of electricity, mainly solar panels and generators.