Developing Countries Emerge As Sustainable Energy Leaders, But Sub-Saharan Africa Lags Well Behind

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A number of developing countries have been identified as leaders in sustainable energy, according to a new analysis by the World Bank, but there is nevertheless still tremendous room for improvement across the globe, and especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, which currently ranks as the least electrified continent on the planet.

These are the key findings from a new report published by the World Bank, entitled RISE (Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy), which is a product of the Sustainable Energy for ALL (SEforALL) initiative’s Knowledge Hub, itself a product of the commitment made by nations to Sustainable Development Goal 7 (one of 17 by 2030) — “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” The new report outlines a set of indicators to help nations compare their regulatory environment with their regional and global peers. Specifically, RISE assesses a country’s policy and regulatory support for each of the three pillars of sustainable energy:

  • Access to modern energy
  • Energy efficiency
  • Renewable energy

The report outlines 27 separate indicators covering 111 countries which together account for 96% of the world’s population. Each indicator targets a specific element of the larger policy or regulatory regime.

“RISE will be an invaluable tool for policymakers, helping them to identify and bolster policies and regulations that spur the kind of investments needed to extend access to modern, affordable and reliable energy for all,” said Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director and Head of Energy and Extractives at the World Bank.

“The world is in a race to secure a clean energy transition — one that will deliver energy services for everyone, create jobs, ensure health care and education, and allow economies to grow,” added Rachel Kyte, CEO and Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General on Sustainable Energy for All. “Increased use of renewable energy is a key element in that transition.

“RISE offers policymakers and investors the most detailed country-level insight yet into how we can level the playing field for renewable energy worldwide. Smart policy can accelerate this transition.”

One of several important findings from the report is the role of emerging nations as global leaders. According to the report, almost 80% of the 111 countries factored into the report “have begun to implement elements of supportive policy frameworks” and 45 are already at “a reasonably advanced stage” of such policy frameworks. While obviously developed countries such as members of the OECD rank high, having been “long engaged on this agenda,” approximately half of the 45 countries with strong policy environments across all three pillars are emerging economies. Specifically, we’re looking at countries such as South Africa, China, India, Malaysia, Armenia, Belarus, Turkey, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Egypt, Iran, and Jordan (to name a few).

As can be seen quite clearly, however, Sub-Saharan Africa remains well behind the curve. The region remains the world’s least electrified continent, with 600 million people living without any access to electricity. The report found as many as 40% of Sub-Saharan African countries have taken barely any of the policy measures necessary to accelerate energy access, compared to less than 10% of Asian countries.

There are a few exceptions, however, with Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda all with strong policy frameworks in place.

However, Sub-Saharan Africa remains a concern. Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Sudan rank as three of the most populous energy deficit countries in the world, with a total unserved population of 116 million people. Further, as many as 70% of Africa’s least-electrified nation — those countries with access rates below 20% of the population — have barely made any progress towards establishing “an enabling environment for energy access.” As such, Sub-Saharan Africa trails South Asia in all RISE energy access indicators except concerning the adoption of an officially approved electrification plan.

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

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