By William Kabagambe
In the twenty-first century, access to energy is vital to society’s basic needs. Modern energy sources are critical inputs to economic development, yet 1.2 billion people around the world live without access to electricity. In Africa alone, 600 million people do not have access to electricity, and even those with access use a fraction of the power that US citizens do.
Demand for energy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in particular is growing; the region is projected to consume close to 1,600 terawatt hours by 2040, four times the amount used in 2010. Despite the increasing demand, more than half of SSA’s nations are currently experiencing power shortages and rolling blackouts. Without reliable energy from the grid, most business and families must rely on generators. In SSA, generators can cost between three to six times more than they do in the rest of the world. Given the high costs of electricity generation, development objectives are increasingly difficult to attain, resulting in unemployment and economic stagnation. With growing populations and declining economic growth, the challenges to improved energy access are numerous. SSA must create critical infrastructure, implement effective policy and promote new sources of investments if it is to unlock its development potential.