Off-Grid Solar Critical to Economic Prosperity in Sub-Saharan Africa

There is an urgent need for African governments and policymakers to prioritize off-grid solar to accelerate inclusive and sustainable economic development in a post-COVID-19 world.

It is according to the last report by Bboxx and the Engineering Center for International Development at UCL, Off-grid energy and economic prosperity.

The report reveals the wealth of evidence on the relationship between access to off-grid electricity and economic prosperity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Off-grid solar home systems and mini-grids are essential for providing energy access to rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Research highlights how access to off-grid energy improves living standards in local rural economies, powers community services such as education and health care, improves the financial capacity of households and businesses and generates higher levels of employment by contributing to the GDP.

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This report makes the following three recommendations to further strengthen the relationship between access to off-grid electricity and economic well-being, both necessary to improve economic resilience after COVID-19 and beyond:

  1. Governments must focus on investments in the off-grid energy sector

The inequalities in access to energy in sub-Saharan Africa that prevailed before the pandemic must not be exacerbated. Governments need to design supportive policy environments to ensure struggling consumers enjoy leniency in paying bills or reduced energy costs. Subsidies are essential. Renewable energy incentives will stimulate local economic development, regain lost jobs and stimulate the creation of new jobs.

  1. Integrate the productive use of electricity into the government’s electrification strategies

The productive use of electricity, i.e. the use of electricity for commercial, agricultural or industrial purposes, can strengthen the creation and improvement of local value chains, diversify the means of livelihood and reduce vulnerability to external shocks.

While in rural sub-Saharan Africa solar electricity is widely used for lighting or television, to truly accelerate local development, governments should develop policies that go beyond these basic needs to include also local productive activities. This will accelerate economic growth.

  1. More attention is needed to promote gender-neutral energy policies

Energy policies must actively take into account the concerns of women in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Integrating women’s experiences into policy making and project planning is essential to foster more inclusive economic prosperity through energy. More specifically, gender-based energy strategies should focus on improving financial inclusion and access to productive economic activities.

Nick Hurd, Senior Advisor, Bboxx: “This report clearly shows what access to energy means in terms of economic development and the opportunity to transform lives. All talk about rebuilding for the better from COVID-19 must confront the hard truths about the terrible inequality in energy access, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Providing universal access to clean energy is a crucial catalyst in shaping the green and inclusive recovery we need to achieve.

“We have the tools to reach everyone, both on-grid and off-grid. All that’s missing is collective leadership to seize the opportunity. Expressing concern about the impact of COVID-19 on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is not enough. We need to turn speech into real-world action, the next step being COP26, in just a few months. “

Dr Priti Parikh at UCL: “We found ample evidence of the compelling link between improved access to solar energy in off-grid communities in sub-Saharan Africa and economic development and prosperity. There is no doubt that off-grid solar power has enormous potential to support local economic growth in communities and SMEs.

“It is now essential that policies are developed and implemented at local, national and intergovernmental levels to ensure that off-grid solar energy remains at the forefront. Translating political commitments into concrete action will ensure better economic well-being for all. “

The Off-grid energy and economic prosperity report is available online.

Originally posted by Nomvuyo Tena on esi-africa.com

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