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Powering Sub-Saharan Africa – A fresh take on an old problem

Masami Kojima's picture
Man looking at electricity meters in Bamako, Mali 
Pic: Aarthi Sivaraman/World Bank

“If there is one thing that could really help my business, it would be reliable power supply,” said David, a small business owner in Lagos, on my recent trip to Nigeria.
“I agree. If only …,” echoed another.

And not without reason.

Africa lags every other region in the world when it comes to electricity access for its people. Only one in three Sub-Saharan Africans has access to electricity. That’s less than half of the rate of access in South Asia, the region with the second-lowest access rate. If we were to measure access to “reliable” electricity, then those numbers would be even more dismal.

Worryingly, the rate of access has been increasing at a mere 5 percentage points every decade, against population growth of 29 percent. If something is not done to dramatically change this trend, Africa will not see universal access to electricity in the 21st century. This is a seriously worrying prospect as the world races toward a 2030 deadline of universal access to electricity.

The target of achieving universal access by 2030 by the U.N.’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative and the billions of dollars committed by the U.S. government’s Power Africa plan underline the urgency of the situation. As a reminder, more than 1 billion people around the world still live without access to electricity and 600 million of those live in Africa.

So, are Africa’s utilities financially equipped to respond to this call?

OPEC’S grip on oil prices may be slipping: A historical perspective

John Baffes's picture

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) unsettled oil markets in September when it announced it would resume placing limits on oil production among its members, effectively reversing two years of unrestrained production.

But how much control can OPEC really exert over prices? History suggests that formal agreements to influence the price of a particular commodity eventually fall apart. OPEC’s own history also shows that the short term benefits of managing supplies become long term liabilities. In addition, the oil producing landscape has changed dramatically in recent years with the advent of nonconventional producers, notably the U.S. shale oil industry. These factors will test the oil exporting organization’s power to influence markets.

Prices seen rising for oil and other commodities in 2017

John Baffes's picture

Prices for most commodities, including oil, are forecast to rise in 2017 as a long period of declining prices appears to be bottoming out, according to the October Commodities Markets Outlook.

Oil prices are forecast to rise to $55 per barrel next year from $43 per barrel in 2016 as markets readjust after an era of abundant supply that outpaced demand. Energy prices, which also include coal and natural gas, are forecast to jump 24 percent in the coming year. The decision in September of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to resume limiting oil production is another important factor behind the higher price forecast.

Aviation deal: A step toward carbon neutrality

John Roome's picture
In five years from now, your trip across the ocean could look very different from today. While you will probably not notice it, the aircraft you board will boast green technologies from wing tips to landing gear. It will fly on the most direct and fuel-efficient route, use more biofuels, and the airline will purchase carbon credits to compensate for the carbon emissions generated by your trip. In fact, starting in 2021, countries are pledging that growth from the aviation sector will be carbon neutral, capped at 2020 emission levels.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector currently represent 2% of worldwide emissions – making aviation the world’s seventh largest emitter - a number anticipated to rise exponentially in the coming decades as more and more people choose to fly to their destinations. Today, an aircraft with 300 passengers traveling from Paris to New York emits approximately 100 tons of carbon dioxide, or as much as emissions from 22 cars in a year. And because the emissions happen higher up in the atmosphere, the impact on global warming is greater than emissions on the ground.
Earlier this month, 191 countries belonging to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted an agreement to stop future emissions from rising above 2020 levels. This is the latest measure by the industry aimed at curbing emissions, a step in the right direction given that air traffic is expected to double by 2030.

It’s possible to end poverty in South Asia

Annette Dixon's picture

October 17 is the international day to end poverty. There has been much progress toward this important milestone: the World Bank Group’s latest numbers show that since 1990 nearly 1.1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty. Between 2012 and 2013 alone, around 100 million people moved out of extreme poverty. That’s around a quarter of a million people every day. This is cause for optimism.
But extreme poverty and the wrenching circumstances that accompany it persist. Half the world's extreme poor now live in sub-Saharan Africa, and another third live in South Asia. Worldwide nearly 800 million people were still living on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, the latest year for which we have global numbers. Half of these are children. Most have nearly no education. Many of the world's poor are living in fragile and conflict afflicted countries. In a world in which so many have so much, it is unacceptable that so many have so little. 

Habitat III will shape the future of cities. What will it mean for urban mobility?

Nancy Vandycke's picture
Photo credit: Rajarshi Mitra/Flickr

Next week, the international community will gather at Habitat III - the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development - to discuss important urban challenges as the world’s cities grow at an unprecedented rate.

Today, 54% of people live in cities and towns. Cities can be magnets for population growth and offer opportunities for jobs and social empowerment; but they can also be a source of congestion, exclusion and impoverishment. Which path of urban growth will prevail depends, in large part, on the quality and availability of mobility solutions. Transport is a structuring element of cities.

The reality of mobility in today’s cities is alarming— especially when measured against the four criteria that define sustainable mobility.

Eight things we know about water and electricity utilities in Africa

Luis Andres's picture

Infrastructure is one of the most important forces driving economic growth and poverty reduction.Yet Africa’s infrastructure networks lag increasingly behind those of other developing countries in providing telecom, electricity, and water supply and sanitation services. Two-thirds of the population in the region lacks access to electricity and five out of six people don't have access to piped water. The people and industries that do have services pay twice as much as those outside Africa, further reducing regional competitiveness and growth. As cities continue to flood with migrants looking for better economic opportunities, power and water utilities are being challenged to improve the services offered to existing and new users. Given scarce resources and competing development priorities, it is essential to establish ways of using resources (and knowledge!) more effectively. 

Do households use improved cook stoves? What are the benefits? An Ethiopian case study

Michael Toman's picture

About 40% of the human population, or about 2.8 billion people, find commercial fuels like electricity and gas inaccessible, too expensive or too irregularly supplied to use for cooking and heating (Smith et al., 2013; IEA, 2012).  Instead, they rely on solid fuels like coal, fuelwood, dung and charcoal that are combusted inside their homes (Jeuland and Pattanayak, 2012, Grieshop et al., 2011, Smith et al., 2013). Biomass fuels in particular are often self-collected and easy to use in inexpensive traditional stoves. This leads to severe public health problems, especially for women and children exposed to indoor smoke, and also can lead to forest degradation. Without major policy and/or technology changes, the global number of people depending on such fuels is projected to remain very large at least through 2030 (IEA, 2006, IEA and World Bank 2015).  
Improved biomass cookstoves that use less fuel and burn fuel more fully often are recommended as relatively affordable ways to deal with these concerns.

5 priorities to boost Afghanistan’s development

Annette Dixon's picture
Photo credit: Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

Today I joined leaders and representatives from 70 countries and 20 international organizations and agencies at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan. Together with its development partners, the World Bank Group pledged its continued support to the Afghan people and outlined a course of action to help all Afghans realize their dream of living in peace and prosperity.
Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001 and has made much progress under extremely challenging circumstances: life expectancy has increased from 44 to 60 years, maternal mortality has decreased by more than three quarters and, from almost none in 2001, the country now counts 18 million mobile phone subscribers.
Yet, enormous challenges remain as nearly 40 percent of Afghans live in poverty and almost 70 percent of the population is illiterate. This is made worse by growing insecurity and the return of 5.8 million refugees and 1.2 million internally displaced people. Much also remains to create jobs for the nearly 400,000 people entering the labor market each year.
To that end, here are five priorities we need to address to ensure a more prosperous and more secure future for all Afghans: