Energy Access and Security in Eastern Africa – Status and Enhancement Pathways

From: Yona Maro

A report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), which assesses the state of energy access and security in 14 States of the Eastern Africa Region by employing energy access and security assessment methodologies was launched on 10th June in Kigali, Rwanda.

The report entitled “Energy Access and Security in Eastern Africa – Status and Enhancement Pathways” investigates on issues of energy technology, energy resources governance, energy and the environment, energy trade and the impact of energy on the macro-economy. It also reviews, in depth, the issues of energy access and security based on regional analysis, and case studies of Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda. It suggests pertinent recommendations on enhancing the state of energy access and security in the sub-region.

The share of the population with access to electricity in Eastern Africa is among the lowest globally. The report cites for example, that in South Sudan, a mere 1 percent of the population has access; in Burundi 2 percent; in DR Congo 9 percent; and in Uganda 12 percent. The regional access level of 27% is also below the level for middle-income countries (a policy aspiration of member States) of 82%. “Structural transformation aspiration of member States will need to overcome the energy access bottleneck impairing the pace of industrial development,” the report says.

The report further notes that due to limited progress in transition from traditional biomass as a main source of energy, since 1990 there has been a forest stock decline of 20% in Ethiopia, Somalia and Tanzania, nearly 40% in Uganda and Burundi and between 4-8% in DR Congo, Eritrea, Kenya and Madagascar, leading to household energy challenges.

Reflecting on energy security in the petroleum sub-sector, the report highlights that the region nearly exclusively relies on imported refined petroleum, with declining regional refining capacity and increasing consumption levels (increased by 63% in the last decade). Oil import is now taking a large share of GDP in member States, diverting financial resources from development. The needs for a regional and country framework on energy security management are discussed.

Yohannes Hailu, the Economic Affairs Officer in Charge of Energy at UNECA. “Energy trade with neighboring countries and regionally is an untapped opportunity in Eastern Africa” “Countries in the region which have the capacity to generate more power, given their energy resource potential, should increasingly look at regional energy trade opportunities that would mutually benefit all the economies of the region.” he added.

Hailu further noted that regional opportunities for energy sector development would have to be supplemented by greater efforts at the country level to develop indigenous energy resources, along with a national strategy and framework for energy security management.

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