Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the largest access deficit: here, 573 million people—more than one in two—lack access to electricity. The region is also home to the 20 countries with the lowest electrification rates (figure ES3). Burundi, Chad, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Niger were the four countries with the lowest electrification rates in 2017. Progress in electrifying inner cities has been slow, and most informal settlements are still supplied through fragile distribution networks. The rural access rate of 79% in 2017 was lower than the urban access rate of 97%. To reach remote areas, off-grid solutions are essential; these include solar lighting systems, solar home systems, and—increasingly—mini-grids. SDG target 7.1 calls for universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services. Reliability and affordability remain challenging elements in many countries, even as the number of household connections increases. In 2017, one-third of access-deficit countries faced more than one weekly disruption in electricity supply that lasted over four minutes. A basic, subsistence level of electricity consumption (30 kilowatt-hours per month) was unaffordable for 40% of households in about half of these countries. Access also has a gender dimension. In key access-deficit countries analyzed under the World Bank’s Multi-Tier Framework for Energy, found significant variability in household access rates based on gender of head of household. If the rate of progress in expanding access to electricity remained at the same level as that between 2015 and 2017, universal access could be reached by 2030.

However, connecting the last of the unserved populations may be more challenging than past electrification efforts, since many such populations live in remote locales or overburdened cities. A projected 650 million people are likely to remain without access to electricity in 2030, and 9 out of 10 such people will be in Sub-Saharan Africa. Key strategies for closing this gap will include data-based decision-making and advanced policy-planning frameworks, private sector financing, versatile.

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