Department of Business Development and Technology

Rethinking the governance of energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa: Reviewing three academic perspectives on electricity infrastructure investment

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Sub-Saharan Africa is generally one of the most electricity deprived regions in the world. Since the 1990s, the World Bank and other relevant and respected multilateral organisations have consistently advocated that the required finance to develop sub-Saharan Africa's essential electricity capacity should be sourced from the private sector. However, despite this ongoing advocacy, the private sector has been unenthusiastic to answer this call. Much of the literature attributes this reticence to a lack of ‘good governance’: principally negative behaviours such as corruption. Instead, in this paper we argue that this is too simplistic an explanation, as private investment has still been able to thrive in other locations where such negative behaviours have existed. To support this argument, we utilise an interdisciplinary approach to review three separate academic governance perspectives, to deliver a more comprehensive view. These are: 1) Financial Investment Governance, the private sector investor's perspective, which focuses on the rules and institutions (or lack of) that directly influence the financial investment environment; 2) Political Governance, the political economy perspective, which relates to the negative, indirect investment consequences resulting from the way that governments govern; and 3) Technological Governance, a ‘systems’ perspective, which encompasses how the standard structure and organisation of the wider electricity delivery system in each country, negatively impacts such investment. In discussion and conclusion, we find that if the development policy perspective for delivering electricity access to the region is to be successfully constructed around private investment, as the multilateral development community advocates, it will need to accommodate 15 distinct issues that can be identified from this comprehensive review of governance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Pages (from-to)344-354
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Electricity access, Electricity infrastructure, Electricity supply, Financial risk, Governance, Sub-saharan africa

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