Africa's Electrification Mix Series: Electrification Strategies and Their Social Impact (Part 2 of 4)

21 May 2024
Africa's Electrification Mix Series: Electrification Strategies and Their Social Impact (Part 2 of 4)

We continue this month's series by delving into the profound social impacts of different electrification strategies across Africa. We'll explore how access to reliable electricity transforms healthcare, education, and economic opportunities, highlighting both the challenges and successes in various regions and communities.

Energy deficit challenges in Africa

Africa’s huge energy deficit negatively affects its socio-economic development. Public facilities like schools, and healthcare clinics, medium and small-scale businesses and rural communities are the major recipients of the effects of the electrification gap.  

Across Subsaharan Africa, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) estimates that about 25,000 healthcare facilities lack electricity access, while about 70,000 facilities have an unreliable supply.  Without a reliable power supply, these facilities, especially those in rural areas, cannot store vaccines, provide intensive care, operate for longer hours, or perform life-saving complicated procedures, adversely impacting outcomes for millions of people across the continent.

In institutions of learning,  many students and teachers face electricity supply challenges daily. The UK Education and Development Forum (UKFIET) estimates that about 70% of schools in Subsaharan Africa lack access to electricity. This is a challenge facing all tiers of the continent’s educational institutions. In Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Malawi and Niger, over 80% of primary schools lack access to electricity. Universities and other tertiary institutions in Nigeria have to rely on self-generation to augment unreliable and inadequate grid supply.  As a result, pupils and students across the region study in institutions that lack appropriate educational tools including computers, IT services, and other learning resources essential for obtaining a world-class education.  

This challenge also negatively limits the operations of small businesses across Africa. According to a World Bank survey, 49.3%  of firms in Subsaharan Africa identified electricity as a major constraint to their operations. For rural areas, this is even dire as access to alternative sources like fossil fuels is more difficult and costly.  
The energy deficit issue was emphasised by the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the lockdown, educational services were put on hold across the region even as other countries adopted technology-based learning. The movement restrictions and strained healthcare resources affected healthcare service delivery for many, worsening health outcomes for millions. 

Improving socio-economic outcomes with off-grid electricity

Over the past couple of years, off-grid renewable energy solutions have helped to positively influence socio-economic outcomes on the continent. These modular solutions are easily scalable and deployable in remote areas where they are needed.

Governments across the region specifically integrate components with social benefits into their off-grid electrification programmes. For instance, in Nigeria, the government-implemented Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP) has two such components; the Energising Education Programme (EEP) and the Energising Economies Initiative (EEI). They focus on providing renewable energy systems to public universities and large economic zones like markets respectively. The EEP phase 1 saw the deployment of 28.5MW to nine Federal Universities and one University Teaching Hospital.

In Sierra Leone, the government’s Rural Renewable Energy Project (RREP), supported by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), provided community mini-grids that electrified households, schools and health centres. In 2022, the programme reported a significant increase in student attendance at the national primary school examination for electrified schools compared to unelectrified schools. Clinics connected to RREP mini-grids were also able to operate at night, enabling them to provide emergency services including births and traumatic injuries.

The adoption of innovative financing models like results-based financing has also bolstered the social impacts of off-grid electrification. Electrification programmes provide subsidies to projects that solve specific socio-economic challenges. For instance, across Africa, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Shell Foundation fund a Gender Results-Based Financing for Productive Use Appliances programme to improve women's livelihoods through the use of these appliances.

The rise of impact investing has also helped to accelerate the deployment of clean energy solutions with social and environmental benefits. Impact investment has helped to mobilise capital for projects that would not be feasible for commercial capital. The combination of intentional government support and the adoption of innovative financing structures have made it possible to leverage private capital to deploy projects that positively compound the social benefits of electrification across the continent. 


Launching a new energy era in Africa

With an aim to fully back Africa's climate pledges at COP 27, the Africa Energy Expo will serve as a scene-setter to the Africa Power Vision by bringing key energy stakeholders together to increase the level of international support and facilitate access to modern, affordable and sustainable energy in Africa.

Energy & Utilities - Middle East and Africa Market Outlook Report 2024.

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