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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

‘Poverty and lack of economic opportunities drive low electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa’

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By Juldeh Njie

High cost of electricity and lack of appropriate infrastructure are the main barriers to electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a report presented Tuesday by Moussa Blimpo, a World Bank senior economist.
Balimpo is the co-author of the book electricity Access in Sub-Saharan Africa with Malcom Cosgrove-Davies, a former Energy Practice manager at the said institution, who retired in April 2018.

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The report indicates that African countries cannot afford to ignore what is keeping potential users from connecting and consuming higher quantities of electricity, and that electricity access expansion in Africa faces a dual challenge.
“On one hand, faster access requires lower prices, since most households cannot afford to connect and pay tariffs that will allow utilities to recover their cost and to consume at meaningful levels,” he added.

He said on the other hand, lower regulated tariffs, which could make access more affordable to more people, can exacerbate utilities already precarious financial situation.
“The best way to simultaneously make electricity more affordable for households and improve the financial viability of service providers is to focus on using electricity primarily for income generating activities,” said Moussa Blimpo.

“This can build the economic capabilities of entire communities,” he added.
Explaining further, World Bank’s senior economist said to help translate electrification into economic impact, job creation and poverty reduction, countries should ensure the provision of reliable electricity, even if it comes at the expense of faster expansion of the share of the households with electricity access.
“Access without capacity and reliability will constrain economic impact and poverty reduction.”

The author also underlined the need for better coordination across sectors for greater impact. Electricity access must work together with access to credit, access to markets, and skills for lasting economic effects.
Elene Imnadze, World Bank country representative to The Gambia, said: “Supporting the country’s commitment to achieve universal access to electricity by 2025 is a strategic priority of engagement in The Gambia. The World Bank’s active energy portfolio in The Gambia amounts to $175M for both national and regional projects.”

Fafa Sanyang, petroleum and energy minister, who chaired the presentation, said electricity or energy is used in every socioeconomic activity of a society.
“It can therefore be deemed as one of the central pillars in the industrialisation and economic advancement of a country,” the minister equipped.
He said it was worthy to note that the report highlighted pertinent issues of electricity access, its importance to economic progress and explains how other countries successfully achieved universal access to electricity.

He assured the authors and the World Bank that the report will be put to good use, adding that it “shall never gather dust in our offices”.
“This will serve as a guide for us as we deliberate on the solutions for electricity access,” he added.

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