Off-grid solar is vital to economic prosperity in sub-Saharan Africa

It is imperative that African governments and policymakers prioritize off-grid solar energy to accelerate inclusive and sustainable economic development in a post-COVID-19 world.

This is up to date Report from Bboxx and UCLs Engineering for International Development Center, Off-grid energy and economic prosperity.

The report uncovers the abundance of evidence relating to the link between access to off-grid electricity and economic prosperity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Off-grid solar home systems and mini-grids are essential to enable access to energy in rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa. The study shows how access to off-grid energy improves the standard of living in the local rural economy, drives community services such as education and health care, improves the financial performance of households and businesses, and creates more employment through a contribution to GDP.

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

  1. Governments need to focus on investing in the off-grid energy sector

The inequality in energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, which was widespread before the pandemic, must not be further exacerbated. Governments need to create a supportive policy environment to ensure that consumers in difficulty are treated with leniency in paying bills or cutting energy bills. Subsidies are essential. Renewable energy incentives will stimulate local economic development, reclaim lost jobs and drive job creation.

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

The productive use of electricity, ie the use of electricity for commercial, agricultural or industrial purposes, can strengthen the creation and improvement of local value chains, diversify livelihoods and reduce susceptibility to external shocks.

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

  1. More attention needs to be paid to promoting gender-equitable energy policy

Energy policy must actively take into account the concerns of women in rural sub-Saharan Africa. It is important to incorporate women’s experiences into policy making and project planning to promote more inclusive economic prosperity from energy. In particular, gender energy strategies should focus on improving financial inclusion and access to productive economic activities.

Nick Hurd, Senior Adviser to Bboxx: “This report makes it clear what access to energy means in terms of economic development and the possibility of changing lives. All the talk about better recovery from COVID-19 has to face the harsh truths about the terrible inequality of energy access, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Providing universal access to clean energy is a critical catalyst in shaping the green and inclusive recreation we need to deliver.

“We have the tools to reach everyone, both internally and remotely. All that is missing is the collective leadership to seize the opportunity. It is not enough to express concern about the impact of COVID-19 on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We have to convert conversations into real action, with the next milestone being COP26 – now only a few months. “

Dr. Priti Parikh of UCL: “We have found extensive evidence of the irrefutable link between better 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 has tremendous potential to support local economic growth in communities and SMEs.

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

the Off-grid energy and economic prosperity Report is available online.

Originally published by Nomvuyo Tena on esi-africa.com

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