970 million people lack access to clean food, 600 million lack access to electricity in Africa

It seems that we have heard about these numbers for a long time. While some progress has been made, the IEA’s Africa Energy Report 2022 shows us that there is still much 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 between 2010-19, more than 40% of Africans are still without service. Although 18% of the world’s population lives in Africa, less than 6% of global energy consumption comes 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, aim to achieve full access by 2030. These countries can be good examples and can offer success stories for other countries.

The report also notes that more than 970 million people still lack access to clean cooking. Yes, almost 1 billion people on the continent do not have access to clean food. Wood fuel, waste and charcoal burned in three stones are still the continent’s dominant sources of cooking energy. Fuel is “free” and relatively easy to find, and a three-stone fire not only offers a platform for cooking but also provides warmth during the colder months of the year. However, the smoke associated with cooking over an open fire is dangerous. 4 million people die each year from illnesses related to cooking fumes. 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 this wood fuel or similar for cooking. Accelerating the transition to cleaner cooking has become critical and will allow women and children to free up time for more productive activities in the community.

To guarantee universal access to affordable electricity by 2030, more than 70 million people need to be connected every year! In essence, this would mean tripling current connection speeds, the IEA report said. For clean cooking, achieving universal access to clean cooking fuels and technologies by 2030 will mean over 120 million people switch from using dirty cooking fuels per year!

The IEA’s analysis shows that the expansion of national grids is the least expensive and most reasonable option for expanding access to electricity. However, many of the continent’s utilities, which play a key role in financing the energy sector, are facing severe liquidity problems that risk turning into long-term debt, the report added. Many of these utilities also have legacy problems of poor management, under-investment and low cost recovery due to low electricity tariffs for various reasons. This hampered efforts to preserve existing assets and invest in new ones, thus slowing the expansion of electricity transmission and distribution networks. The report notes that African countries were already struggling to attract capital to the energy sector before the pandemic, receiving less than 3% of global clean energy investment from 2010 to 2020.

It appears that a quantum leap in capital is needed to truly solve this problem of access to electricity and clean cooking. In order to reach the universal access goals by 2030, much more work needs to be done on many fronts.

 

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