What you need to know about access to electricity in East Africa

Electricity is ensuring people can live a satisfactory quality of life. Access to energy is central to important issues such as security, healthcare and food production, just as it strengthens economies.

Sadly, more than 1.1 billion people in the world cannot boast of having electricity, and almost all of these people live in rural areas, mainly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa alone, about 590 million people don’t have access to electricity and this includes the East African region. A recent data from East Africa’s news platform, the exchange reveals that 121,365,103 people out of the 158 million people living in the East African Community (EAC) countries do not have access to electricity. This means 78 percent of the total population lacks electricity.

East Africa

Tanzania accounts for the largest population of the region without access to electricity with 71 percent of its population accounting for this defect. 93 percent of Burundi ‘s population is without electricity. However, it is worthy to note that Rwanda has the highest population with electricity currently at 34 percent. Rwanda’s success is largely due to the various efforts put in place by the country with the world bank playing a pivotal in helping the country achieve this. As of 2009, only six percent of the population had access to electricity and the government is working towards increasing it to 70 percent by the end of 2018.

In spite of the need for electricity for economic development, it is worthy to note that huge investments are also needed to achieve the desired result. According to the International Energy Agency, about $640 billion investment in electricity will be needed if the UN goal is going to be met.  Sub-Saharan Africa alone requires about $19 billion yearly.

Apart from getting the huge capital investment for the sector, one other challenge facing the region’s goal is that people in the EAC live relatively far away from each other in rural areas. The number of consumers who have the ability to pay for electricity service connection fees and ongoing consumption of electricity is also very small.  

However, in order to achieve their goal, the EAC countries have set enormous targets to increase electricity coverage. Burundi is targeting to increase its electricity access to 25 percent by 2020 and 40 percent energy access by 2030. Kenya targets to increase access to one million customers a year and a target of universal access to electricity by 2020. Rwanda targets to increase its access from 70 percent by 2018 to 100 percent access by 2020, unfortunately, this may not be achieved. Uganda has set plans for 51 percent coverage by 2040 and universal access by 2040.

If these targets are met, EAC will see a huge growth in its economy as increased access to electricity will lead to the efficiency of markets, labour, and information flow. This will make the countries globalized and digitized economies as individuals and enterprises will be able to get the opportunity to provide better economic growth.