Kenya has been ranked as the top country in the world in reducing the population with no access to electricity, pointing to the impact of the State’s focus on rural areas for nearly a decade. The Energy Progress Report for 2021, a product of a partnership between the World Bank and bodies such as the International Energy Agency, says Kenya’s electrification pace is now ahead of population growth.
Kenya’s annualized increase in electricity access between 2010 and 2019 was at 5.6 percent — the largest among the top 20 countries in the world with the biggest electricity access gap. The increased pace of electrification, also supported by off-grid solutions such as solar, points to the fruits of the State’s last-mile connectivity program, which was launched in 2014 mainly targeting rural areas.
Kenya’s growth dwarfed the world’s average growth of 0.8 percent, with the closest countries being Bangladesh (4.1 percent), Uganda (3.2 percent), Tanzania (2.5 percent), India (2.4 percent), Myanmar and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with 2.2 percent each.
“Among the 20 countries with the largest deficits, Bangladesh, Kenya, and Uganda have made the most progress in electrification, as they achieved annual growth in access of more than three percentage points between 2010 and 2019,” says the report.
The report, however, says Kenya is yet to start drawing maximum socio-economic benefits from the increased electrification. The improving electricity access, the report says, should be complemented by promoting productive uses of the power.
“Kenya’s recent efforts at last-mile electrification have not resulted in any real increase in consumption of electricity beyond basic services, putting into question the viability of costly grid connections,” says the report.
“To date, Kenya’s electrification programs, like most, have encouraged supply while overlooking the need to stimulate demand, especially demand for productive uses of electricity.” Kenya Power recently admitted to this problem, saying most of its rural customers consume about six units a month — an equivalent of Sh100.45 — leaving it with idle electricity. The report notes that unscheduled electricity interruptions are among the main challenges facing firms connected to the grid.