Viewpoint: Power in a Pandemic – Why Energy Access Matters During Coronavirus
By Damilola Ogunbiyi
A pandemic puts pressure on every part of a country’s economy and society. For developing countries that were already facing major challenges before COVID-19, this pressure will be particularly painful.
As the virus spreads, especially across Africa and parts of Asia, one of the most used preventative measures is a luxury not all countries can afford. Social distancing and stay-at-home measures being adopted in many countries are predicated on an important assumption: that populations have access to reliable, affordable electricity to stay connected and continue to communicate with public services and one another remotely.
The reality is 840 million people – predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa – are living without access to electricity and hundreds of millions more only have access to very limited or unreliable electricity. Many of these people, largely women, reside either in crowded cities or rural areas. “Sheltering in place” in such areas for long periods of time may not be possible as energy is needed to cook and store food, or to cool homes.
Photo courtesy of Russell Watkins / DFID.