The electricity access rate in Sub-Saharan Africa is substantially lower than what it could be, considering the level of income and the electric grid footprint. The lack of access to electricity imposes major constraints on modern economic activities, the provision of public services, the adoption of new technologies, and the quality of life. Constrained and unreliable electricity is also slowing economic transformation in the region.
The overarching reasons for the poor state of the electricity sector involve tightly intertwined technical, financial, political, cultural, and geographic factors. These underlying factors include both supply-side and demand-side constraints. On the supply side, inadequate investment in maintenance results in high technical losses; most state-owned utilities are running at a loss; and power trade, which could significantly lower the cost of electricity, is underdeveloped. On the demand side, uptake (the share of connected households in an area that has electricity supply) and the willingness to pay are often low in many communities, and consumption levels of those who are connected are limited.
In efforts to answer the question “How do we provide reliable, affordable, sustainable electricity service to all?” much of the focus has been on mitigating supply-side constraints, such as lack of adequate generation and poor or missing distribution systems. As a result, demand-side constraints have been relatively neglected. This book sheds light on demand-side issues, the importance of reliability, and the role of complementary factors. Better understanding of these issues is critical for policy makers so they can take the necessary steps for boosting electricity uptake to drive economic transformation in the region.