Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest energy access rates in the world, where electricity only reaches about half of its people, and only one third of its people have access to clean cooking.
According to a OECD case study, “a clean energy revolution in sub-Saharan Africa is urgently needed to win the fight against energy poverty”. Individuals who do not have access to reliable and affordable energy sources are said to be energy poor. Energy poverty impacts an individual’s wellbeing negatively due to a low energy consumption, the use of dirty or polluting fuels, and having excessive time spent collecting fuel to meet basic needs.
In Sub-Saharan Africa 633 million people are estimated to lack access to electricity, and 792 million people are forced to cook with traditional biomass on unimproved cookstoves. This is a problem because clean energy is needed to deliver on the promise of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. Also, clean energy can increase sustainable economic growth, improve human health and well-being and enable women and children to lead more productive lives. Another benefit of clean energy access is that it can raise human security and build resilience in states and communities to help limit the risk of large scale migration across the African continent.
Only 17% of the population has clean cooking access, and in Sub Saharan Africa, 792 million still do not have access. Worldwide 2.6 million people do not have access to clean cooking and this is a problem because household air pollution from cooking smoke is linked to around 2.5 million premature deaths annually. Majority of the people in Sub Saharan Africa rely on gathering biomass for cooking, especially in rural areas, and this damages health and impairs productivity improvements. Due to the lack of access to clean cooking facilities, almost 490 000 premature deaths per year are related to household air pollution, and women and children are among the worst affected, because they take on the housework.
The access to clean cooking in Sub Saharan Africa increased slightly from 15% in 2015 to 17% in 2018. And since 2015, 25 million people have gained access to clean cooking in the region, however in this region the number of people gaining access to clean cooking barely exceeds population growth. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where the number of individuals without access continues to rise significantly, which highlights the need for urgent action.
The need for urgent action is intensified by Covid-19 because the pandemic slowed the progress on providing access to clean cooking fuels. Covid restrictions impacted household incomes which made it harder to afford or pay for modern fuels thus forcing individuals to revert back to traditional use of biomass for cooking. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), “around 50 million people in developing countries in Africa and Asia reverted to traditional use of solid biomass for cooking”. Covid-19 has also impacted the goals set for 2030, as the health crisis weakened the financial situation of governments and energy companies. The IEA suggested based on their Delayed Recovery Scenario that “if the economic rebound were to be slower, then an additional 100 million people would not have access to electricity in 2030, and Sub Saharan Africa would see the access situation worsen, with the number of people without access to electricity increasing to 630 million, or more than 80% of the global total”.
Sub Saharan Africa is in urgent need of universal energy access, and some ways to achieve this include increasing grid-connected electricity generation from renewables, reducing the costs of small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) for stand-alone systems and mini-grids which will help deliver affordable electricity access to millions.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic and other ways in which Africa can achieve universal energy access, then join in on EnvironFocus’s next webinar happening on Thursday March 17th 2022 from 11am – 12:30pm EST, “Creating Bridges to Affordable, Clean, and Reliable Energy in Africa”.
Get your tickets now at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/creating-bridges-to-affordable-reliable-and-clean-energy-in-africa-tickets-291701696627
Access to electricity – SDG7: Data and Projections – Analysis. (n.d.). IEA. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from https://www.iea.org/reports/sdg7-data-and-projections/access-to-electricity
Achieving clean energy access Sub Saharan Africa. OCED. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from https://www.oecd.org/environment/cc/climate-futures/Achieving-clean-energy-access-Sub-Saharan-Africa.pdf
What is energy poverty? (n.d.). Enbridge Inc. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from https://www.enbridge.com/energy-matters/energy-school/what-is-energy-poverty
Morrissey, James, “The energy challenge in sub-Saharan Africa: A guide for advocates and policy makers: Part 2: Addressing energy poverty” Oxfam Research Backgrounder series (2017): https://www.oxfamamerica.org/static/media/files/oxfam-RAEL-energySSA-pt2.pdf
How do cooking fuels impact health, equality and climate? (2021, October 27). World Economic Forum. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/10/polluting-cooking-fuels-deaths-women-climate/
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