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Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Mapping Africa’s energy infrastructure: open data lights the way

Christopher James Arderne's picture
Credit: World Bank Photo Collection


Despite localized success stories, electricity access is still increasing slowly in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Global Tracking Framework, access in Africa increased from 31% to 38% over the period from 2007 to 2014. Globally, just over one billion people today have little or no access to electricity. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to achieve affordable and clean energy for all with SDG 7. Efforts toward this goal were in sharp focus at the SEforALL Forum in New York City last month, where the latest progress, data, problems and achievements around the Sustainable Energy for All program were assessed and discussed.

Amongst clean cooking solutions, off-grid solar innovations and many others, the World Bank and partners launched a new data initiative. The ENERGYDATA.INFO platform aims to empower stakeholders from every side of the equation ‑ governments, private industry, financers, analysts, NGOs and the public ‑ with access to more and better quality data as well as analysis and tools that are simple and insightful.

One of the flagship apps released along with this platform is the Africa Electricity Grids Explorer, which presents the most complete and up-to-date openly available data on the electricity transmission and distribution networks in Sub-Saharan Africa. The last time a concerted effort was made to map Africa’s grid infrastructure was the Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, now 10 years old. The Africa Electricity Grids Explorer attempts to bring such approaches into the modern era, by combining data from utilities and World Bank projects with crowd-sourced data from OpenStreetMap, satellite imagery analysis, and on-the-ground GPS tracking. This has already had a positive response from both policy-makers (who want to see data improved in their home countries) and modelers (who are using this new data in their efforts).
 

"This map shows current best publicly available data on existing and planned transmission and distribution networks in Sub-Saharan Africa, aggregated from a wide variety of sources. Dark lines are high voltage, while lighter lines are low voltage. Image from Africa Electricity Grids Explorer