“Does the solar home system work? Do you really get better lights? Or, is it just a big fuss?’ I have been asking solar home systems households in rural Bangladesh these basic questions for the past five years as part of my implementation review missions for the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development program, which has installed over 2.8 million solar home systems since 2002. This has so far contributed to a 9% increase in access to electricity in Bangladesh.
Many African countries face a dilemma. After a decade of consistent economic growth, often propelled by high commodity prices, half the continent’s population still lives in poverty. Even if rising demand for raw materials from the booming cities of China and India, among others, has driven growth in Africa’s mining sector, most of the continent has not yet translated mineral wealth into industrialization and widespread economic development. Most African countries continue to export raw materials and then pay a premium to import the products made with them.
Twenty countries in sub-Saharan Africa are classified as “resource-rich” by the International Monetary Fund. Most of these resources are minerals such as iron ore, gold and bauxite, as well as oil and gas. But of these, 14 are ranked higher for GDP per person than they are for their score on the UN human-development index. So what constrains such resource wealth from yielding greater development gains?
At Indaba Mining, the annual gathering Feb. 3-5 in Cape Town of leaders of Africa’s mining sector—from government, corporations and civil society—the words “sustainability” and “stakeholder outreach” were ubiquitous. This focus on sustainability issues reflects impressive progress made in recent years around how mining can contribute to shared value.
Mining is a high stakes industry. For the growing list of countries looking to translate underground assets into tangible benefits above the ground, the ability to negotiate and implement a good deal is critical. However, capacities to do so are often weak. A handy resource is now available to help countries. And it’s free!
Most experts agree that energy efficiency is a critical building block for sustainable development. This is because improvements in energy efficiency strengthen a country’s energy security, increase competitiveness, ease shortages in energy supply, and lower environmental impacts including local and greenhouse gas emissions.
Why doesn’t it happen then?
I am a mining specialist, not a conflict specialist. But on my recent trip to Sierra Leone, I was struck by the ever-present need to look at extractive industries through the lens of conflict prevention. The devastating 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone, in large part fueled by local alluvial diamond mining, is impossible to separate from future mining development. With over 50,000 deaths due to the civil war, we cannot ignore the link between conflict and mining.
“Kaatiyabaaz” is a compelling documentary film that highlights the power crisis in Kanpur, a city of three million people in north India.
It has all the elements of a steamy Hindi movie: 45-degree Celsius heat, power outages that last 12-15 hours, and illegal connections that come up every night and disappear in the morning. The everyday characters are gripping too. There’s a Robin-Hood-like street electrician who “provides power” by hooking to transmission lines. An upright bureaucrat (a woman, imagine that!) trying to get people to pay their bills and prevent theft. A city full of tired, angry citizens fed up with poor service provided. The film underlines how people will do whatever it takes to get some juice in their wires so that they can get lights, fans, water…the basic necessities of 20th century life.
Between 2007 and 2011, Peru doubled electricity access rates from 30 percent of households to over 60 percent. The national rural electrification program has been supported by US$50 million in World Bank financing and US$10 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
This is a remarkable achievement, but to make sure that the new opportunities benefit local people in rural areas, an additional initiative was launched. This “productive uses of electricity” pilot project adapted lessons from two World Bank-supported activities in Indonesia under which the national utility reached out to local communities through NGOs.