energy access in africa

Today some 600 million people do not have access to electricity and around 900 million people lack access to clean cooking. 

Despite progress in several countries (e.g. Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda), current and planned efforts to provide access to modern energy services barely outpace population growth. In 2030, 530 million people still lack access to electricity and nearly one billion people lack access to clean cooking. Therefore, the global population without access to energy becomes increasingly concentrated on the African continent.

To reach the goal of African Agenda 2063 it is required to triplicate the number of people accessing electricity per year. 

Practically speaking, solutions are planned to be: Grid extension and densification for nearly 45% of the population gaining access by 2030, mini-grids for 30%, and stand-alone systems for around a quarter. (IEA, 2019) 

Energy Africa.png

(Africa Energy Outlook 2019, IEA)

 - Dr. Fatih Birol 

Executive Director of the International Energy Agency

“Even before today’s unprecedented crisis, the world was not on track to meet key sustainable energy goals. Now, they are likely to become even harder to achieve. This means we must redouble our efforts to bring affordable, reliable and cleaner energy to all – especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the need is greatest – in order to build more prosperous and resilient economies."



The current crisis (COVID-19 pandemic) has further unveiled inadequacies of the current system regarding the massive gaps in energy access, which in consequence affects healthcare, water supply, communication, and information, not to mention other vital services needed.

According to the UN, 1 in 4 health facilities is not electrified. (UN, 2018)

Electricity is key for responding to public health emergencies, and most of those who lack electricity access live in Sub-Saharan Africa. 


Energy poverty has massive implications for economic development and social well-being.

"Countries cannot grow out of poverty without access to abundant, affordable, and reliable electricity [...]". With this sentence, Rose M. Mutiso introduces the term "Energy Growth" during her TED talk titled "How to bring affordable, sustainable electricity to Africa".

She mentions the fact that there are no low-energy with high-income countries, and how there are more solutions to energy poverty than only solar off-grid systems.






are now connected to mini-grids 

in africa

According to the "Africa Energy Outlook 2019", the IEA states how the progress on decentralized energy access solutions has increased thanks to the implementation of mini-grids, the installation of solar home systems, among others.
But the fast development of these solutions, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, relies on the accessibility of the population to digital communications systems and digital payment infrastructures, which allows them to pay for affordable services, that at the same time are replacing fossil fuels in energy services.


Of health centre facilities have

no access to

reliable electricity


Reliable electricity is essential for the proper functioning of health centres.

Electricity supports the use of efficient modern equipment, the preservation of the cold chain of vaccines and other necessary medicines, and the ability to conduct emergency medical procedures, for instance, during childbirth a night, women were only helped by the febrile brightness of kerosene lamps or candles. Moreover, nurses don’t have to keep a torch in their hands or their mouths to see the patient. (IEA, 2019)

Intermittent electricity can provoke hazardous events in these facilities, not to mention it limits the limit of people that can be treated, additionally, it prevents these centres to have proper communication systems which can be vital for the care of patients, in terms of decision making or medicine/equipment availability. (Bartram and Cronk, 2018)




According to the “Food Business Africa 2020” the Grain market in Africa is continuing to exude a bullish performance: it is growing at an annual average rate of 1.5%. Demand is growing fast but the world’s demand is growing even faster. Grain exports in Africa stood at 2.3M tonnes, growing by 14% against the previous year (2018). In value terms, grain exports stood at US$720M (IndexBox estimates).
With these values on the front page, we can state that the grain business is one of the main developing drivers in Africa. Thus, the milling capacity in sub-Saharan Africa grew by 12%, between 2014 and 2017 (The African Report 2019).
It is key that the milling capacity in the sub-Saharan countries keeps increasing to meet the growing demand for African flours. Nevertheless, many people still cannot afford paying for commercial grain-milling services and they grind by hand using traditional techniques or using diesel milling machines. However, electric milling machines powered through PV solar mini-grids are being the affordable, sustainable and key solution for local sub-Saharan communities. 


Of the NOX emissions in africa are contributed by diesel back-up generators

Living with an unreliable electricity connection is a day-to-day reality for billions of people in developing countries. Blackouts can be regular or unexpected, stretching to hours or days. To better meet their energy needs, tens of millions of people purchase and operate Back-up generators (BUGS) run by diesel to supplement their unreliable grid connection at households and businesses.

BUG fleets contribute significantly to some pollutant emissions. The large contribution of NOx emissions by BUGS stands out among other pollutants examined by the International Finance Corporation, 2019 (IFC).


In Sub-Saharan Africa, BUGS account for 15% of total NOx emissions—equivalent to 35% of the NOx from the entire transportation sector. It also accounts for 65% of NOx emitted from power generation in Africa.

Mini-grids powered through PV solar systems lower these types of emissions due to their high reliability and validity. The recent increase in installation of off-grid systems in Africa contributes to the African National Grid release and attenuates the pollutant emissions of BUGS.

contributions of bugs to emissions.png

53% of the African roads are unpaved, 

isolating people from basic education, health services and economic opportunities.

According to the “African Development Bank, 2015” a significant percentage of Africa’s road network is unpaved, isolating people from basic education, health services, transport corridors, trade hubs, and economic opportunities. Moreover, access to the road network is uneven, with rural areas largely underserved. This unequal access makes the flow of goods and services to and from rural areas difficult and expensive. 

Thus, reliable transport infrastructure, in all four subsectors— roads, railways, air transport, and ports—is an essential component of all countries’ competitiveness. And although roads are the predominant mode of transport in Africa- carrying at least 80% of good and 90% of passengers- major deficits exist in its infrastructure.

These deficits are frequently negatively experienced by communities’ villagers who cannot reach nearby cities, especially during rainy seasons, when non-paved roads become a muddy terrain. However, electric mobility, such as e-bikes, prove to be a good solution due to their versatility to be driven through difficult paths and hard terrains. Moreover, they can be recharged using solar-powered mini-grids and are becoming an economically feasible option for end-users.


increase in women entrepeneurship following availability of electricity via solar mini-grids

Electricity is a key source for any business development. In off-grid Sub-Saharan communities, energy access brings new business opportunities to their villagers. Electricity access in rural areas of Africa is proved to increase the scale of business, extend its operating hours as well as increase their income and at the same time reduce their operating costs (WBG, 2017).

Not only that, today more and more study cases show that solar-powered mini-grids in Africa are a significant driver for women empowerment in the business area. How is that?

Mini‐grids can significantly reduce women’s drudgery and save them time, particularly in female‐dominated labour-intensive agricultural and food processing activities through uptake of electrical appliances, such as water pumps, grinders, mills, blenders and refrigeration (Winther et al., 2016).

Studies in South Africa, Nicaragua and Guatemala show that women are 9‐23 percentage points more likely to gain employment outside the home following electrification. The time savings delivered by electric power and the ability to carry out domestic activities in the evening due to lighting frees up women’s time to participate in paid work (Chowdhury, Shyamal K., 2010).