Electricity is an important problem, according to surveyed citizens, though not their most important problem.
When asked to cite “the most important problems facing this country that government should address,” 13% of respondents cite electricity as one of their top three priorities. This places electricity at No. 11 on the list of problems, far behind unemployment (38%) and health (32%) but ahead of corruption, housing, and political violence.
In some countries, however, electricity stands out as a top priority, including Guinea (where 33% cite it as one of the three most important problems), Nigeria (32%), Ghana (31%), and Benin (28%) . Along with Lesotho (23%) and São Tomé and Principe (21%), these countries place electricity supply among their five most frequently cited problems. Similarly, on a question about priorities for increased government spending, citizens in Lesotho (36%), Nigeria (28%), Benin (25%), Ghana (25%), South Africa (24%), and Guinea (23%) are most likely to rate electricity as their first or second choice.
Power supply and poverty
Survey findings related to electricity confirm previous analysis of Afrobarometer data demonstrating a strong link between poverty and access to basic services.
Afrobarometer data describe “lived poverty” based on how often people go without basic necessities: enough food, enough clean water, needed medicines or medical care, enough fuel for cooking, and a cash income. The frequency of going without enough to eat is a particularly good proxy for overall household experience of poverty. In a household without electricity, members are significantly more likely to go without enough food. For example, where an electric grid is available, 37% went without enough food at least once during the previous year; where no grid is present, the proportion who experienced hunger rises to 60% (see infographic right). Comparable patterns hold for the relationship of other basic services to hunger (Mitullah, Samson, Wambua, & Balongo, 2016).
Further research may clarify whether having electricity reduces lived poverty or poverty reduces the ability to obtain reliable electricity – or whether the two operate in a selfreinforcing vicious circle. But for infrastructure planners, the message is clear that the poor should be a priority target for provision of electricity.
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