Kenya’s Move Towards Solar Energy (Part I)

Kenya’s Move Towards Solar Energy (Part I)

Power lines in rural Kenya

The Benefits of Electricity in Rural Kenya

It is estimated that one in five people on the planet do not have access to electricity (World Bank data bank). In sub-Saharan Africa, about 70 percent of the population has no electricity and surprisingly in Kenya, only 15 percent of the population has proper access to power. This is a depiction of how electricity is available to few people despite Kenya’s population of 34 million.

Electricity is a rare commodity for many households and generally considered a luxurious commodity for many in regions across the country. But people in the developed world can barely imagine the thought of having to sustain themselves without electricity. Business would come to a standstill, schools would close, and peoples’ lifestyles would be greatly affected; it would indeed be a chaotic world. While engrossed in their daily activities, people in the developed world may fail to realize that limited access to power is a reality in many households in Kenya, the African region as a whole, and countries in the global south.

The energy sector in Kenya is greatly driven by the use of petroleum and electricity. Wood fuel is also widely used to provide rural communities, the urban poor, and the informal sector (locally referred to as the ‘Jua Kali’ sector: businessmen and entrepreneurs that sell crafts on roadsides, informal makeshift shelters etc.) with their energy needs. Biomass also accounts for about 68 percent of Kenya’s total energy needs (here, biomass constitutes substances such as wood fuel and crude oil that ultimately becomes petroleum). The Kenyan government has taken great strides to ensure that electricity is largely accessible to those in marginalized, remote areas. However, despite the government’s efforts, the number of people without electricity is still very high. The Kenyan government has put various mechanisms in place to ensure connectivity increases from the current rate of 15 percent to 65 percent by the year 2020.

Without electricity, many Kenyans are restrained from engaging in a number of essential activities that people in developed countries can freely enjoy. Access to electricity ensures that school going children can study at night and have an equal chance at succeeding in their education. It would save subsistence farmers many hard hours of labor by using electricity to run machinery and would revolutionize the Kenyan agricultural sector making it more efficient. Access to electricity allows even those in marginalized areas access to the internet and cell phones. Electricity will not only improve their lives but also decrease poverty levels as people will freely engage in income generating activities.

Photo courtesy of schinkerj/Flickr