The world acknowledged that by adopting a dedicated UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 7) that aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, modern and sustainable energy for all by 2030. Africa lies at the heart of that objective.
Although it has long been the least electrified continent, Africa is showing signs of significant change. At the continent’s annual Energy Indaba event, the World Bank shared the most recent evidence of Africa’s progress towards SDG7 and stimulated a discussion about Africa’s prospects for meeting the new global targets.
As of 2012, about 35% of Africans had access to electricity, up from 32% in 2010, according to the “Progress Toward Sustainable Energy: Global Tracking Framework 2015” report. In fact, in as many as 19 African countries less than one in five people had access to electricity in 2012.
Some countries are making meaningful progress. Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa were among the fastest moving countries globally in terms of expanding electrification from 2010-2012. Countries like Mali, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo expanded electrification more rapidly than their own populations are growing, and bold targets and electrification programs have been adopted in countries like Kenya and Rwanda.
Yet overall expansion of electrification in Africa has barely kept pace with population growth in the same period, in sharp contrast to South Asia where electrification grew four times as fast as population. In order to reach SDG7, Africa will need to electrify over 60 million people each year, more than double its current performance of 24 million.
“What this shows is that universal access by 2030 may not be achievable using conventional approaches, yet still remains within reach as long as we focus on providing basic—but meaningful—forms of access,” said Aaron Leopold, Global Energy Advocate with Practical Action. “The evidence shows that many of the human development impacts of electrification are achievable with relatively modest amounts of electricity consumption.”