Impact Analysis of Rural Electrification Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa

Impact Analysis of Rural Electrification Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa

In recent years there has been a renewed interest in infrastructure development in Sub-Saharan Africa. This article reviews trends in rural electrification over the past 30 years and explores the unstable levels of support available. Low connection rates, limited productive use and the lack of empirical evidence for impacts on outcomes such as health and education are issues explored in more depth. Recent and upcoming impact evaluation studies are also briefly summarised.

The author concludes that while rural electrification is not necessarily a sufficient condition to long-term development of rural areas, it is probably a necessary one. The article states that motivations for rural electrification programs have evolved significantly over the years, from putting it as a priority to its consideration as expensive and of limited effectiveness. This is put down to changes in development paradigms as well as a lack of reliable measures of rural electrification’s impacts. Intermediary indicators of success, such as connection rates and the utilisation of electric energy, remain limited in the poorest electrified villages of Sub-Saharan Africa.

There is a lack of concrete evidence which assess the role of infrastructure, in particular rural electrification, on various dimensions of poverty. This is in part due to the difficulties found in undertaking this type of study. The author argues that a pragmatic approach of impact measures should allow for the test and measure of the effect of rural electrification programs on their beneficiaries, as well the most appropriate means for increasing connection and utilisation rates. The conclusion is that similar efforts should be applied to other infrastructure sectors in order to assess their relative and eventually combined effects. Examples of recent or ongoing impact evaluations offer promising avenues for identifying both the effect of electricity per approaches to promoting it.

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