3 March 2022

Off-grid energy in East Africa needs urgent policy intervention

Estimated reading time: 2 Minutes
Solar panel on top of tower

The off-grid energy sector in East Africa is vital to the region's sustainable development and needs urgent government support to help it recover from the pandemic, according to a new policy brief from researchers at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford.

Off-grid energy in East Africa needs urgent policy intervention

The brief also details how interventions within the sector could help accelerate progress in tackling societal problems such as poverty, inequality and unemployment. Without action, 30 million people in Sub Saharan Africa risk losing access to electricity.

The brief urges policy makers to:

  • Develop local off-grid supply chains by strengthening regional and local manufacturing;
  • Encourage continued support from donors for the off-grid sector;
  • Integrate off-grid energy with society-wide goals by encouraging a focus on affordability;
  • Accelerate the connection of off-grid energy with digital infrastructure such as mobile money platforms.

In the last decade, off-grid energy companies, with technology such as solar panels, allowed approximately 60 million more people in Africa to access electricity. The pandemic slowed this development, with many off-grid energy companies struggling to stay operational due to funding cuts, staff shortages and delays.

Employment opportunities are also at risk - the sector employed 77,000 in East Africa in 2018. Before the pandemic, this was projected to grow to 350,000 by 2022.

"Access to affordable and reliable clean electricity services is vital to East Africa's sustainable development. We urge East African governments to protect and enhance this progress by implementing our policy recommendations," says Tonny Kukeera, lead author and researcher at the Smith School.

Aoife Brophy, Departmental Research Lecturer in Innovation and Enterprise at the Smith School and Saïd Business School, comments, "The nature of electricity access as an enabler for improving lives cannot be over-emphasised. Off-grid solutions provide equitable, affordable and reliable energy access. It's vital they are supported in ways that unlock this potential."

Download the brief.