It is extraordinary that in 2012 nearly 7 in 10 people living in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity or modern energy sources.
The majority of these people have to heat their homes and cook on open fires, using traditional fuels like wood. The smoke and fumes produced from these traditional energy sources contributes to nearly two million deaths every year across the world, mainly affecting women and children.
But, it has wider implications too.
It means that huge swathes of people have no evening light, limited access to modern communications and inadequate education and health facilities, which are all vital for reducing poverty.
Unreliable or unaffordable electricity also means businesses struggle to function and prosper – both in urban and rural areas. Addressing this is crucial to providing jobs – which the world’s poorest prioritize above all else.
The Problem in Numbers
Nearly 7 in 10 people living in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to electricity, and 8 in 10 heat their homes and cook on open fires using traditional fuels like wood.
This contributes to nearly two million deaths every year across the world, mainly affecting women and children.
Currently by 2030, 645 million people (49% of the population) in sub-Saharan Africa will still not have electricity, and 900 million (68% of the population) people will still be cooking and heating their homes using inefficient cooking facilities.
Roughly 60 % of African businesses cite access to reliable power as a binding constraint for their operations and growth; thereby severely limiting job growth and economic opportunities.
There is a way to change this. Countries like Thailand have shown how it can be done, increasing the share of the population with access to electricity from 25% to almost 100% in just over a decade.
The same can be done in Africa. But current efforts are insufficient to address this energy poverty. Unless we urgently change direction, 645 million people in sub-Saharan Africa will still not have electricity in 2030, that’s nearly 50% of the projected population.
We need a step change in our approach, and this is the year to do it. 2012 is the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. This is a United Nations (UN) initiative that brings together business, governments, investors, community groups and academia with the aim of securing universal access to modern energy services by 2030.
The three goals of this initiative are, by 2030, to:
1) Achieve universal access to modern energy services
2) Double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency
3) Double the share of renewable energy in the global mix
Political momentum is starting to develop around this initiative, led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and other global leaders, but it is crucial that this momentum is now turned into concrete support if the poorest are to get the support they need.
That is why ONE is calling on world leaders to pledge their support to the goals of the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative as a first step towards achieving modern energy access for all by 2030, helping the poorest people in the world escape poverty.
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