Is it possible to make electricity more affordable for millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa who need it most, and have the region’s cash-strapped power providers be profitable at the same time?
Yes, according to a new World Bank study, entitled “Making Power Affordable for Africa and Viable for its Utilities,” which analyzed data from 39 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to understand what it would take to make power utilities financially viable and what factors influence the affordability of electricity for those who need it most in the region.
Today, one in three Africans does not have access to electricity, often resorting to using kerosene or spending hours in darkness. On the other hand, power providers in the region are cash-strapped, suffer from aging infrastructure and are unable to serve their customers in a reliable manner.
If nothing is done to change this, there will be more Africans without power by 2030 than there are now.
But that does not have to be the case.
The study found that a series of steps can help power utilities recover the cost of supplying electricity and make it affordable for the poor at the same time. For that to happen, utilities must minimize technical and commercial power system losses due to activities such as meter tampering.
They must also ensure maximum collection of electricity bills, the study found. Increasing tariffs, which are the rates consumers pay for electricity, are also necessary but should target large- and medium-size consumers first and in line with service quality improvement, according to the study.