The 2020 edition of Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report that monitors and assesses attainments in the global quest for universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy by 2030 is out. The reports says, “Although the world continues to advance toward SDG 7, its efforts fall well short of the scale required to reach the goal by 2030 with a disturbing figure of 789 million people still without access to electricity and 3 billion people without access to clean cooking fuels(2018)”.
Source: SDG7 2020 Tracking Report
If as such is the global reality, what does the statistic show for Ethiopia specifically?
A helicopter view of the report clearly shows that Ethiopia is one of the 20 countries with the largest access deficit, the share of the population having access to electricity still at 45%, and only less than 5% of the population having access to clean fuels, as of 2018.
In population terms, close to 60 million Ethiopians are without access to electricity and almost 98 million people remain without access to clean fuels in the same year and it is the very reason that accelerated investment is needed in the energy sector.
In contrast to the people who live without access to electricity and the people who does not have access to clean cooking fuels on a global stage, almost 8% and 3.4% respectively live in Ethiopia alone and it is a disturbing figure.
Despite the huge access deficit, astonishingly, Ethiopia is not part of the top 20 countries with the highest rates of access to off-grid supply with only less than 5% of the share of the population using solar lights having <11W (below Tier 1) solar lighting solutions. In contrast, a little more than 20% of Kenyans are using solar lights having <11W. Quite in contrast to Ethiopia, Kenya is also one of the top 20 countries with the highest rates of access (Tier 1 or higher), to off-grid supply, as of 2018.
The report says, “almost three-quarters of the 20 major access-deficit countries expanded electrification at a rate of more than one percentage point each year since 2010 with few countries outpacing the population growth. With 1 percentage points of annualized increase in access from 2010 to 2018, Ethiopia among other twelve countries, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand could not outpace population growth”, which is notably an alarming highlight. .
In sectoral terms, only 29% (22%ongrid, 7%off-grid) of education facilities, and 59% (34% on-grid, 25% off-grid) of health facilities are connected to any form of electricity again as of 2018, shockingly leaving 71% of education facilities and 41 % of health facilities in the country without any form of access to electricity. If we account the unscheduled outages and interruptions, as the report points out, the figure would even be significantly higher. We can imagine the impact of COVID-19 in the face of the country’s current reality if additional measures are not taken at a scale and speed required.
One of the few positive mentions of Ethiopia in the 2020 SDG7 tracking progress report is the new programmatic focus of gender in the country’s national electrification program where the utilities realized the gender gap in the energy sector and the work they do in improving the constraints in employment, child care, sexual harassment, female entrepreneurship, and consumer-level affordability.
If as such is the real situation on the ground, as the report clearly highlights, what policy options shall Ethiopia take for a sector make over at a scale and speed required to achieve the country’s own and SDG 7 goals in addition to the ongoing reforms, programs and projects?
In part two of this series, I will come back with a quick review of the policy recommendations provided in the 2020 Tracking SDG 7 Report. Stay tuned. Please note that the report covers other aspects of the SDG 7 goals where Ethiopia perfoms relatively well but I focus only on the access dimension whose magntitude I find more relevant to bring it to light.