It seems like we’ve been hearing about these numbers for a long time. While some progress has been made, the IEA’s Africa Energy Outlook 2022 shows us that there is still much work to be done on the African continent to achieve universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.
The report notes that while 160 million Africans gained access to electricity in 2010-19, more than 40% of Africans are still without service. Although 18% of the world’s population lives in Africa, less than 6% of the world’s energy consumption comes from Africa. 600 million Africans still lack access to electricity, with around 50% of them living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. The report notes that some countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda are on track to gain full access by 2030. These countries can be good examples and can offer success stories for other countries to follow.
The report also notes that more than 970 million people still lack access to clean cooking. Yes, almost 1 billion people on the continent do not have access to clean cooking. Wood, waste and charcoal burned in three stones are still the dominant sources of cooking energy on the continent. Fuel is ‘free’, relatively easy to find, and a three-stone fire offers not only a cooking platform but also provides warmth during the colder months of the year. However, the smoke associated with open fire cooking is dangerous. 4 million people die each year from illnesses related to cooking smoke. The Clean Cooking Alliance notes that women and children in developing countries are severely affected as they spend up to 20 hours a week gathering these wood fuels or similar for cooking. Accelerating the transition to cleaner cooking has become critical and will allow women and children to free up time for more productive community activities.
To ensure that universal access to affordable electricity is achieved by 2030, connections to over 70 million people per year will need to be added! This would essentially triple the current rate of connections, the IEA report said. For clean cooking, achieving universal access to clean cooking fuels and technologies by 2030 will mean removing over 120 million people from dirty cooking fuels annually!
IEA’s analysis shows that expanding national grids is the cheapest and most reasonable option to increase access to electricity. However, many public enterprises on the continent, which play a key role in financing the energy sector, are facing severe liquidity crises that risk turning into long-term indebtedness, the report added. Many of these public services also have legacy problems of poor management, under-investment and low cost recovery due to low electricity tariffs for various reasons. This hinders efforts to maintain their existing assets and invest in new ones, thereby slowing down the expansion of power transmission and distribution networks. The report notes that African countries were already struggling to attract capital to the energy sector before the pandemic, receiving less than 3% of global clean energy investment from 2010 to 2020.
It seems that a qualitative leap in capital raising is needed to really solve this problem of access to electricity and clean cooking. Much work remains to be done on many fronts to achieve the universal access targets by 2030.
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