Electricity access progress in Africa – 2017

The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Bank compile data on electrification status for different countries around the world. The IEA database can be accessed here and the World Bank one can be accessed here.  For both databases, the figures on electricity access are obtained from a variety of sources including national census data and surveys, international development organizations, governments etc. With different sources and methods of calculating the access rate, the numbers differ (significantly in some instances).

Both databases currently use data collected in 2014.  Given that the rate in most developing countries increases by a few percentage points annually, these figures give a good idea of the current status. Additionally, since 2013, the IEA and the World Bank have published reports on the global progress towards sustainable energy for all. The Global Tracking Framework 2017 Report can be accessed here.

According to the Global Tracking Framework 2017 report, electricity access in Africa between 1990 and 2014 increased by a mere 14.3% from 22.9% in 1990 to 37.2% in 2014.

Comparing the electricity access rates between 2013 and 2014 from the World Bank and IEA raw data for different sub-Saharan countries shows little progress in most countries.

Lower Middle Income Countries Access WBLower Middle Income Countries Access IEA

According to the World Bank data,  Kenya, Ghana, Sudan, Swaziland and Sao Tome & Principe made considerable progress.


Angola’s electrification rate decreased by 1% in 2014 compared to 2013 according to the World Bank data. This can be attributed to damage to the electicity network infrastructure that occured during the 27-year civil war that ended in 2002 (Global Tracking Framework 2017 Report). In 2016, the World Bank re-classified Angola from an upper-middle-income economy to a lower-middle-income economy.

The 2013 data for Swaziland and Côte d’Ivoire from the IEA is erroneous. Furthermore, the IEA data shows lower access figures in 2014 for Nigeria and Kenya. Taking Kenya as an example, the World Bank data is closer to the reality on the ground. According to the national utility, Kenya Power, the access rate was 27% in 2013 which is similar to the World Bank figure for that year.  These two countries account for about 20% of the population without access in Sub-Saharan Africa and therefore accurate data on their access rates are critical.

Given these errors in the IEA data, the World Bank data is used in the rest of this article.

Low Income Countries Access WB.V2.png

Among countries classified as low-income countries, Uganda and Rwanda made the most progress registering increases of 7% and 5% respectively. In contrast, Benin, Zimbabwe, and DR Congo had negative growth rates of -3%, -4% and -1.3% respectively. According to the Global Tracking Framework Report, this can be attributed to the economic crises experienced in these countries. It is, however, unclear why Tanzania, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Liberia also registered decreases in electricity rates in this period.

The World Bank and IEA data provide perspective on the scale of the problem. For most countries, much of the increase in electricity access in Sub-Sharan Africa has been through the extension of the national grid. Given the slow rate of progress so far, innovation is required to reach the goal of universal access around the world by 2030. This innovation is happening with mini-grids, solar home systems, and pico-power systems gaining ground quickly in some parts of Africa. However, with some countries still having access rates of below 10% (South Sudan, Chad, Burundi, Liberia), more needs to be done.

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