Integrating Energy Access and Employment Creation to Accelerate Progress on the Millennium Development Goals in Sub-Saharan Africa

Integrating Energy Access and Employment Creation to Accelerate Progress on the Millennium Development Goals in Sub-Saharan Africa

This report from the United Nations Development Programme was published during the ‘International Year of Sustainable Energy For All,’ as voted by the UN General Assembly. It seeks to demonstrate the benefits of complementary policies and programmes for energy access on employment, economic growth, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The authors identify barriers and drivers of scaling up energy access and provide guidance on how to maximise the contribution of energy services. Case studies are presented from Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, South Africa and South Sudan. Throughout the study there is an emphasis on the role of decentralised (and renewable) energies.

New off-grid, decentralised energy options are increasingly available in Sub-Saharan Africa, but can remain ‘islands of success’. The study has analysed a series of expanding employment sectors in Africa that rely on energy services, including the tea sector in East Africa and the mobile phone sector, with a focus on southern Africa.

The report begins with an introduction, followed by an overview of the links between energy, growth and employment. It then goes on to give an empirical analysis of the impact of energy devices on employment and finishes with conclusions and recommendations.

The report concludes that energy access is a necessary precondition for growth and employment:

  • The expansion of employment is inhibited by insufficient energy access.
  • Without access to energy, existing employment and livelihoods are inefficient.
  • To improve the employment potential of the energy sector, it needs more energy access.
  • Decentralised energy options have a complementary role in creating wider and more cost-effective energy access in certain cases.
  • Widening energy access alone is not enough: the taking up of equipment, improvements in enterprises and increased income generation are all key factors.
  • Without wage equality, increased energy access alone does not guarantee an increase in the availability of opportunities for decent work.
  • Energy access does not necessarily convert into new jobs, especially in the short term and particularly in the absence of other factors, including market access, technology/skills access, access to finance and economic/social stability.


Based on their findings, the authors explain three central policy recommendations in order to achieve the goal of increased energy access while maximising the linked and reinforcing objective of expanding employment: Improved regulation and planning, enabling private sector and community action and coordinated action at the international level.

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