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Kenya outshines neighbours in access to mains electricity

Sunday June 2 2019

Kenya Power Company employees

Kenya Power Company employees work on replacement of wooden poles with concrete ones at Bamburi Junction along the Mombasa-Malindi Highway early this year. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

EDWIN OKOTH
By EDWIN OKOTH
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Kenya leads all its East African neighbours in deepening access to electricity by a wide margin according to a recent report by the World Bank.

The country was also listed among the top performers in expanding access to power in the period between 2010 and 2017 ranking together with bigger economies such as India.

At over 75 percent access currently (63.8 percent by 2017), the country’s rate was almost triple Uganda’s 22 percent and almost double Tanzania’s 32.8 percent and Rwanda’s 34.1 percent.

Kenya, which aims to achieve a universal access to electricity by 2022, had also an impressive rate of expanding reach compared to its neighbours.

The country’s annualised increase in access stood at 6.4 percent, just below Afghanistan’s 7.9 and Cambodia’s 8.3 percent. Its neighbours continued to lag with Rwanda at 3.4 percent while Uganda and Tanzania were increasing access at 1.4 and 2.4 percent respectively. The world average rate is 0.8 percent making Malawi, Chad and Burundi below the global average at 0.6 percent rate.

“In recent years, pronounced progress in expanding access to electricity was made in several countries, notably India, Bangladesh, and Kenya. Among the 20 countries with the largest populations lacking access to electricity, India, Bangladesh, Kenya, and Myanmar made the most significant progress since 2010,” says the World Banks Energy Progress Report 2019.

Sub-Saharan African is still home to people with the largest access deficit with the World bank estimating that some 573 million people—more than one in two—lacking access to power.

Off grid solutions

The bottom 20 countries in terms of access are also said to be in this region with Burundi, Chad, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Niger being ranked as the four nations with the lowest electrification rates in 2017.

Efforts to increase households hooked to the main power grid as well as use of off grid solutions by countries such as Kenya have helped reduce the global population without access to electricity to about 840 million in 2017 from 1.2 billion in 2010.

The report put those without access to electricity in Kenya at 18 million, again fewer that Uganda’s 33.4 million and Tanzania’s 38.5 million.

Kenya’s deficit is, however, set to narrow rapidly as the government plans to connect more than five million households under a Sh270 billion plan to achieve its universal access to electricity target in the next three years.

The ambitious Kenya National Electrification strategy aims to have every household connected to power through grid expansions and use of off-grid sources by 2022 in a subdidised plan where homes get subsidy to pay Sh15,000 gradually as they consume the power.

Those situated close to transformers will be prioritised with the use of mini grids set to fill the gaps in areas located far from the main grid.