What Can We Learn about Energy Access and Demand from Mobile-Phone Surveys? Nine Findings from Twelve African Countries

February 20, 2018

This paper leverages the proliferation of mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa to conduct phone-based surveys on energy access and demand. The survey uses interactive voice recognition (IVR) surveys to ask questions on energy service provision, service quality, and demand in twelve African countries: Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. From these surveys, this we identify nine key findings:

  1. Daily outages are a norm almost everywhere.
  2. Satisfaction with service from the grid varies widely.
  3. The grid is viewed as reliable for powering some household appliances.
  4. In all countries, the majority desire a grid connection.
  5. Connection costs and distance from the grid are the most common obstacles to grid electricity.
  6. Demand is high for energy-intensive appliances, especially TVs.
  7. On-grid customers still rely heavily on generators, especially in Nigeria.
  8. Off-grid, non-generator electricity is inadequate for most respondents’ energy needs.
  9. Off-grid customers still desire grid electricity.

From these findings, we draw several potential policy implications. First, both grid electricity and off-grid solutions currently are inadequate to meet many African consumers’ modern energy demands. Second, grid and off-grid electricity are viewed by consumers as complementary, rather than competing, solutions to meet energy demand. Third, a market exists for off-grid solutions even among connected, urban Africans.

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