A new study released by the Center for Global Development found that either grid electricity or off-grid solutions alone are currently inadequate to meet many African consumers’ modern energy demands.
The survey of consumers in twelve African countries found that on-grid customers still rely heavily on off-grid solutions like generators for their daily lives, and that off-grid customers want access to on-grid electricity.
The researchers analyzed data from mobile phone-based surveys to assess energy service quality and demand in in twelve African countries: Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. The surveys were conducted between July 2015 and December 2016, and received responses from 39,000 consumers in 28 languages.
“Making electricity more accessible, reliable, and responsive to African demand across the continent should be a priority,” said Todd Moss, a co-author of the report and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. “While many policymakers debate whether grid or off-grid solutions are most appropriate, African consumers don’t view these options as an either-or question. Customers who are on the grid want to be able to use off-grid electricity too. And customers who have off-grid power want access to grid electricity to meet growing demand.”
“Off-grid customers may appreciate the lights and basic appliances like phone chargers that off-grid systems can power, but want to move up the energy ladder toward higher power appliances like refrigerators enabled by a grid connection. At the same time, on-grid customers face a host of reliability issues and thus see off-grid options as an important backup.”
Key findings from the survey include:
Daily outages are a norm almost everywhere. Among those with access to grid electricity, at least half cited electricity outages at least once a day across almost all surveyed countries.
Respondents in Mozambique, Ghana, and Zambia reported the highest prevalence of daily outages. The country with the lowest prevalence of frequent outages was Rwanda, where only 18 percent of respondents experienced multiple outages per day. In all countries, the vast majority reported at least one outage per week.
On-grid customers still rely heavily on generators, especially in Nigeria. Almost half of on-grid respondents in Nigeria relied on a generator during power outages – the highest of any other country.
Off-grid customers still desire grid electricity. In most countries, off-grid respondents are not completely satisfied by off-grid electricity solutions and retain a high demand for grid electricity.
Off-grid, non-generator electricity is inadequate for most respondents’ energy needs. A significant proportion of respondents across the surveyed countries reported that their off-grid electricity solution did not fulfill any of their power needs.
This includes almost two thirds (65 percent) of Rwandans with off-grid, non-generator electricity.
In all countries, the majority desire a grid connection. Demand for the grid was highest in Zambia and Ghana, where over 50 percent said that they wanted an electrical connection very much.
In all other countries except Senegal and Benin, demand appears to be high but less passionate; over two-thirds of respondents without an electric connection indicated that they wanted an electrical connection to the national grid either a little or very much.
Satisfaction with service from the grid varies widely. Reported satisfaction with grid electricity ran from Mozambique (74 percent satisfied) and Rwanda (71) at the high end to Ghana (19) and Zambia (27).
Connection costs and distance from the grid are the most common obstacles to grid electricity. When asked about the greatest obstacle to gaining access to the national grid, most respondents cited either the cost of electricity, the cost of connection, or the lack of proximity to the grid.
Demand is high for energy-intensive appliances, especially TVs. Off-grid households indicate a high demand for energy-intensive appliances, particularly televisions and refrigerators.
The survey also asked respondents what appliance they would like to purchase if they gained a grid connection (refrigerator, television, hot plate, radio, or iron). Televisions are the most common aspirational purchase across most surveyed countries.