Poor people in Africa spend about US$10 billion a year to buy charcoal, kerosene, candles and carbide batteries for lighting torches.
This disturbing state of affairs is contained in a report compiled by a panel led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that has called for scaling up of investments in the energy sector, noting that over 600 million Africans lack access to electricity.
According to the 2015 Africa Progress Report compiled by the 10-man panel and titled ‘Power, People, Planet: seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities’, there is need for a ten-fold increase in power generation if all Africans are to have access to electricity by 2030.
Such an increase, the panelists note, will help reduce poverty and inequality and also boost growth across the continent.
“African governments, investors and international financing institutions must significantly scale up investment in energy to unlock Africa’s potential as a global low-carbon superpower,” a release by the Africa Press Organisation states in part.
According to the report, compared to the rich, the poor in Africa spend 20 times more on energy-related products.
‘Households living on less than US$2.50 a day collectively spend US$10 billion every year on energy-related products like charcoal, kerosene, candles and batteries,’ the panelists note.
Giving an example of Nigeria, the report notes that 95 million citizens of the oil-exporting powerhouse still use charcoal and (fire) wood for their energy needs.
Such an awful situation can be reversed by African governments if, the panelists argue, ‘the US$21 billion spent on loss making utilities and electricity consumption, which benefit the rich, can be redirected to towards connection subsidies and renewable energy investments that deliver energy to the poor’.
The panelists further note that the poor in Africa pay about ten times the amount paid by electricity users in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
‘By comparison, the national average cost for electricity in the United States is US$0.12/kWh and in the United Kingdom is US$0.15/kWh’, the reports states.
Meanwhile, the financing gap for the energy sector in Africa needs to be bridged in line with the US$35 billion annual investments in plant, transmission and distribution and, the US$25 billion spent annually on universal access up to 2030.