It seems we have been hearing about these numbers for a long time. Although some progress has been made, the IEA’s Africa Energy Outlook 2022 shows us that there is still a lot of 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 over 2010‐19, more than 40% of Africans are still deprived of service. Although 18% of the world’s population live in Africa, less than 6% of global energy use is from Africa. 600 million Africans still lack access to electricity, with about 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 for 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 do not have access to clean cooking. Yes, almost 1 billion people on the continent lack access to clean cooking. Wood fuel, waste, and charcoal burned in three‐stone fires are still the dominant energy sources for cooking on the continent. The fuel is “free,” relatively easy to find, and the three‐stone fire offers not only a cooking platform but also provides heat in the colder months of the year. However, the smoke associated with cooking from open fires is dangerous. 4 million people die every year from illnesses associated with smoke from cooking. 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 transmission to cleaner cooking has become critical and will allow women and children to free up time to take up more productive activities in the community.
To ensure that universal access to affordable electricity is achieved by 2030, connections to over 70 million people will need to be added per year! This would essentially mean tripling the current rate of connections, the IEA’s report says. For clean cooking, achieving universal access to clean cooking fuels and technologies by 2030 will mean moving over 120 million people away from dirty cooking fuels per year!
The IEA’s analysis shows that extending national grids is the least costly and most prudent option for increasing access to electricity. However, many public utilities on the continent that play a key role in financing the power sector are facing severe liquidity crunches that risk evolving into longer term indebtedness, the report adds. A lot of these public utilities also have legacy issues related to poor governance, under-investment, and low cost recovery due to low electricity tariffs for various reasons. This has hampered efforts to maintain their existing assets and invest in new ones, therefore slowing down the extension of electricity transmission and distribution networks. The report notes that African countries were already struggling to attract capital in the energy sector before the pandemic, receiving less than 3% of global clean energy investment from 2010 to 2020.
It seems that a quantum leap in raising capital is needed to really tackle this problem of access to electricity and clean cooking. There is a lot of work to be done on multiple fronts to reach the targets for universal access by 2030.
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