Drivers of inclusive energy access in Africa

Sub- Saharan Africa has the lowest access to electricity globally, with more than 592 million people without electricity. Debates around improving energy access in sub-Saharan Africa advocate for investments in off-grid renewable energy, to close the large energy gap. Despite these assertions, financial constraints, gender inequality and the exclusion of local communities remain major challenges in ensuring sustainable and inclusive energy access for all.

Secure  financing  from the private sector 

Despite the fact that African governments have put in place policies aimed at increasing public revenue to boost renewable energy funding, public funds are still inadequate to cover all necessary investments for achieving the sustainable energy access capacities for all. This therefore calls for more private investment and the adoption of models that can be used to ensure sufficient access to energy for all. Noting with praise the enormous work carried out by Green Climate Fund in unlocking private funding and supporting countries to realize their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) towards low-emissions and climate-resilient pathways, it is still critical that governments and other key actors (such as financial institutions like banks) work jointly to create a conducive environment free from political instabilities and stringent regulations which act as barriers to private investments. This in turn will extensively enhance financing from the private sector to support energy access projects that in the long run safeguard inclusive  benefits across populations. Adopt more innovative ways to unlock financing for promoting energy access. 

Promote local participation in all energy access efforts

There is a need to involve indigenous and local communities as well as poor households in designing and implementing energy access response mechanisms intended to solve energy related challenges on ground. For example, there are emerging efforts centered around enhancing and promoting local community participation in South Africa’s renewable energy sector. Initiatives such as Life After Coal have attracted other actors  using an open agenda benchmark to promote and advocate for environmental justice , a transformed, sustainable and just energy system that benefits everyone.This has been used as a pathway to guarantee that if local people are given an opportunity to voice their experiences, interests and priorities related to issues around energy accessibility , inclusivity can be achieved ultimately. 

Mainstreaming gender in energy access program design  

Lack of access to energy affects everyone irrespective of gender even though women are disproportionately affected since they are more dependent on energy to fulfil their domestic roles. There is a need to understand the impacts of energy poverty across genders so as to aid in tabling sustainable energy access solutions that benefit both men and women in equitable ways across communal and household levels. Most importantly, acknowledging women’s needs and their role in designing efficient and just renewable energy systems aids  in preventing dysfunctional policies and measures that would rather be gender insensitive and exclusionary.

Consequently, effective, and sustainable energy accessibility policies and initiatives call for inclusive and collaborative efforts among key stakeholders but most considerably bring on board the private sector that has the ability to boost funding for renewable energy projects. However, for these efforts to be just and equitable, it calls for prioritizing the needs and interests of indigenous and local communities as well as recognizing the active role that women play in energy accessibility discourses and processes. 

Author : Damalie Tebajjukira

Marketing & Communications Intern

African Centre for a Green Economy