New report calls for urgent action on lighting up homes

A latest report has indicated that the world’s 47 least developed countries (LDCs) are falling far behind the rest of the developing world in terms of getting power to homes and businesses. The report, dubbed Least Developed Countries Report 2017, was published Wednesday by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNACTAD).

A latest report has indicated that the world’s 47 least developed countries (LDCs) are falling far behind the rest of the developing world in terms of getting power to homes and businesses.

The report, dubbed Least Developed Countries Report 2017, was published Wednesday by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNACTAD).

It is noted that while these countries have made great strides in recent years, achieving the global goal of universal access to energy by 2030 will require a 350 per cent increase in their annual rate of electrification.

“Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 is not only a question of satisfying households’ basic energy needs,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said in Geneva, ahead of the report’s publication on Tuesday.

“That in itself has valuable welfare implications, but we need to go beyond… For electrification to transform LDC economies, modern energy provision needs to spur productivity increases and unlock the production of more goods and services.”

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) through its Sub-Regional Office for Eastern African on Thursday hosted the launch of the report which shows that more than 60 percent of people in LDCs live without access to electricity, in Kigali.

The focus of this year’s report is on transformational energy access, which goes beyond household use of energy to encompass productive uses in order to foster sustainable development and job creation.

Regional countries made progress over the past years in energy access.

In Rwanda, energy access level increased from six percent in 2013 to 27 percent in 2017, while in Kenya, it went from 17 percent to above 27 percent during the same period, according to EAC figures.

However, levels in the region remain below sub-Saharan averages, while Eastern Africa has among the least industrial consumption of energy in the continent. Funding gap forecasts for Eastern Africa indicate that $4.2 billion are required every year in the energy sector until 2020, highlighting the need for sustainable sources of financing.

ECA in Eastern Africa has been working with member states to address industrial energy constraint and generate growth dividends.

In Rwanda, ECA has partnered with the Ministry of Infrastructure to improve on sustainable management of renewable energy technologies deployment and the pursuit of energy efficiency and supported capacity development in energy planning.  

The sub-regional office is also working in close collaboration with EAC to improve energy efficiency, enhance technology management in renewable energies and ensure energy security. 

Yohanes Hailu, ECA’s energy policy expert in Eastern Africa said: “To accelerate economic transformation, especially through industrial development, sustained investment in the energy sector from public and private sources will continue to be crucial. To industrialize, Eastern African will need to energize.” 

Andrew Mold, ECA’s Acting Director in Eastern Africa, says that, for years, ECA has advocated for Africa’s industrialization as a key towards its structural transformation. 

Mold said: “One of ECA’s key arguments is that sustainable investment in infrastructure and energy in particular will be a driver for growth. UNCTAD’s LDC report is a timely reminder once again of the need to focus on the industrialization agenda.

Meanwhile, according to Dr. Kituyi, the productive use of energy is what turns access into economic development, and what ensures that investments in electricity infrastructure are economically viable.

“But that means looking beyond satisfying households basic needs to achieving transformational energy access – satisfying producers' needs for adequate, reliable and affordable energy.”

While on average 10 per cent of people in other developing countries lack access to electricity, this remains the case for more than 60 per cent of the population in LDCs.