Speaking truth to power: why energy distribution, more than generation, is Africa’s poverty reduction challenge

Working and discussion papers
May 2015

Energy is important to reduce poverty, but increasing electricity generation alone will not solve the problem. In this paper, ODI uncovers that most investment in electricity generation in Africa is not geared towards serving the basic energy needs of the poor, but is instead focused on providing power to growing industries and existing consumers.

This paper, therefore, argues that tackling energy poverty will have less to do with ambitious expansion of electricity capacity, and more to do with ambitious distribution of energy services to poor people. A second key conclusion is that distributed, clean energy interventions – both renewable energy systems and clean cookstove technologies - are best suited to tackling energy poverty – and poverty more generally. It is here that we should be focusing energy investment, to tackle poverty and close Africa’s energy gap.