Access to affordable and clean energy has remained a pipe dream from many people in the sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to high electricity cost and exorbitant initial connection fees.

A new paper by Dr. Ibrahim Kasirye, the research director at the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), Anita Ntale, a trade and development researcher, and Gayathry Venugopal, a macroeconomics research analyst at EPRC, show that only four out of the 48 sub-Sahara countries have met the global average of 89% electrification.

The four countries are Seychelles, Cape Verde, Gabon, and Mauritius.

The paper has been published by the Southern Voice, a network of think tanks from Africa, Asia and Latin America, and is titled Implementation progress of the SDGs: Sub-Saharan Africa regional survey.

It shows remainder 44 countries rate as having poor access to electricity and therefore stagnated in progress to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 that calls for wider access to affordable and clean energy by 2030.

The researchers found that the main obstacle the cost of electricity and initial high costs. Southern Africa leads with an average of 49.5% access to electricity, while Central and East Africa are lagging with an average of 42% access.

“This indicator [of access to affordable electricity] is generally stagnating,” the paper notes. “The minimal improvements registered since the beginning of SDG implementation are mainly attributed to oil-producing countries. The slow pace of access expansion may be explained by the cost of electricity as well as the high initial cost for household connection to the national grid”

The researchers add that “due to high cost of electricity connections, some Africans without electricity have overhead cables running in close proximity to their households.”

In addition to low access to affordable electricity, access to clean energy remain “very low”, the paper notes, adding that reliance on wood for cooking remains widespread and has implications on attaining other SDGs.

The regions with the lowest rates are west and East Africa, averaging 12% and 15% respectively of the population have access to clean cooking fuels.

Average access rates for Central Africa are slightly higher, at 20.5%. Southern Africa had a large proportion (average 40.2%) of the population has access to clean technology for cooking.

Some Southern African countries, like Namibia, are still heavily reliant on non-renewable energy sources, getting just 4% of its energy from renewable sources.

Overall, progress regarding clean energy is also stagnating with at least 80% of SSA countries rated as poor, with less than 40% of the population having access to clean energy.

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