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Renewable Energy Strategies for Rural Africa: Is a PV-led Renewable Energy Strategy the Right Approach for Providing Modern Energy to the Rural Poor of Sub-Saharan Africa?

Stephen Karekezi and Waeni Kithyoma,

AFREPREN/FWD Secretariat,


Rural areas continue to be home to majority of the population in Africa.  The importance of providing modern energy to rural areas cannot therefore be overemphasised.  Despite numerous efforts by Governments and donors in the region to promote solar photovoltaics for rural electrification, (almost every country in the region has had a rural electrification PV project), access to modern energy in rural Africa continues to be woefully low.  In addition to being unaffordable to the rural masses, solar PV has the limitation that it can only be used for lighting and powering low-voltage appliances.  This article reviews emerging trends in the rural energy sector of sub-Saharan Africa, and discusses the limitations of over-reliance on solar PV. It suggests possible options that could have greater impact on rural clean energy development.  For the majority of rural households in the region, biomass fuels will continue to be the dominant fuel of choice.  Efficient technologies for the use of biomass would, therefore, ensure that scarce biomass resources are effectively utilised, and reduce the negative impacts of biomass use on women and children’s health.  Solar thermal, windpumps, micro/pico hydropower and cleaner fuels such as kerosene and LPG, have not received adequate attention from policy makers.  These energy options could significantly improve the performance of rural small and micro enterprises.  This article argues that rural energy policies that emphasise a broader range of renewables that target income-generating activities are likely to yield greater benefits to the rural poor than the current policies that rely on the solar PV option. 

Keywords: Rural Energy; Rural Poor; PV;



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