Skip to content
Key findings
  • Access: On average across 39 countries, about two-thirds (68%) of Africans live in enumeration areas (EAs) served by an electric grid, ranging from just 29% in Madagascar to 100% in Tunisia and Seychelles. o Rural residents (44%) and the poorest citizens (56%) are far less likely to have access to an electric grid than their urban (94%) and well-off (91%) counterparts. o Across 30 countries surveyed consistently over the past decade, the share of EAs with an electric grid has increased by 4 percentage points.
  • Connection: Six in 10 African households (60%) are actually connected to an electric grid. Citizens in Seychelles and Mauritius enjoy universal coverage, but fewer than one-fourth of households are connected in Madagascar (22%) and Malawi (17%). o Like access, connection shows huge disadvantages for rural households (35%, vs. 86% in urban areas) and poor households (45%, vs. 87% among the well-off).
  • Reliability: Fewer than half (44%) of Africans enjoy a supply of electricity that works “most” or “all” of the time. On average across 33 countries surveyed in both 2014/2015 and 2021/2023, this proportion has increased by just 4 percentage points. o Only about one in 10 households in Malawi (10%), Sierra Leone (11%), and Nigeria (13%) report having a reliable supply of electricity. o Lower rates of reliable electricity among rural and poor households reflect not only less access to the national grid and fewer connections, but also lower-quality service for households that are connected.
  • Priority and government performance: The provision of electricity ranks ninth among the most important problems that Africans want their government to address. o Fewer than half (44%) of Africans are satisfied with their government’s performance on electricity provision.

Electricity is an engine of economic and social development, highlighted in the call for  universal energy access in United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7 (United Nations  Development Programme, 2019). Access to electricity facilitates progress in health care,  education, technology, food security, and employment, reducing poverty and improving  the quality of life (Blimpo & Cosgrove-Davies, 2019). 

But according to the most recent “Tracking SDG 7” progress report, 567 million people in sub Saharan Africa lacked access to electricity in 2021 – about the same number as a decade  earlier (IEA, IRENA, UNSD, World Bank, & WHO, 2023). The COVID-19 pandemic reversed some gains in access and highlighted the fact that a majority of health facilities lack reliable electricity (IEA, 2023; Golumbeanu & Knuckles, 2022). 

While off-grid renewable sources of energy are growing in importance, investment is limited and inadequate to achieve SDG targets (World Bank, 2023). 

Afrobarometer survey findings from 39 African countries show that progress in electrification remains slow and uneven, leaving large swaths of the population – especially rural and poor  households – without access to power. Experiences vary dramatically by country, but on  average, fewer than half of households enjoy a reliable supply of electricity, and a majority  of citizens are dissatisfied with their government’s performance on electricity provision. 

Derick Msafiri

Derick Msafiri is an intern for REPOA, the Afrobarometer national <br /> partner in Tanzania.

Richard Adjadeh

Richard Adjadeh is a data analyst for Afrobarometer and a master of public policy student in the Department of Political Science at MSU