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Half of Namibia still has no access to electricity, with over 300 000 households, particularly in rural areas, unelectrified.
This was revealed by the executive director of the mines and energy ministry, Simeon Negumbo, who said electricity provision remains a challenge as the country’s overall electrification rate is estimated to be about 50%.
An estimated 70-80% of rural households do not have access to electricity while figures in urban localities are much better, as around 70% of households in urban areas are connected to the power grid.
“This is a high number of people who do not have the means to hit a switch and have lights on so their children can study at night or cook using modern stoves or preserve their food and drinks in a refrigerator or run a barber shop or salon that requires electricity to make money and support their families,” Negumbo said at an event yesterday.
The ministry has set a target to electrify every Namibian household by 2040, however, according to the Electricity Control Board (ECB), this could be a pipe dream as under 4 000 houses are connected to the grid per year. At this rate, by 2040 only 40 000-80 000 new connections will be made.
According to ECB, to achieve the universal electrification target in 18 years, about 30 000 new connections need to be made annually.
Negumbo said achieving universal access to electricity is easier said than done.
“Namibia is a very large country and has a very small population. As a country, we have a population density of around three persons per square kilometer. Extending the grid to all the corners of our country in this context is very expensive, as electricity infrastructure must be maintained and replaced when it gets old,” Negumbo said.
He said while it might take a long to reach the desired electrification rate, every little milestone counts as an achievement, considering limited resources and the competing needs for rural electrification.
To achieve electrification targets, Negumbo has called for more coordination and involvement of commercial banks, development partners, development financial institutions, and local and international financing institutions.
“It’s only through concerted efforts and dedication from all the stakeholders that we will reach our target and maintain our infrastructure for the benefit of all,” Negumbo said.
Jens Jaeger, director of policy and business development at Alliance for Rural Electrification said access to sustainable electricity for all in Africa requires bringing connections to over 90 million people a year.
Jaeger said 43% of the total population lacks access to electricity, most of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa.
She said extending the main grid to remote areas is made expensive by various factors, including the high unit cost of serving sparsely populated regions, challenging terrain, and infrastructure, and poverty that is three times higher in rural areas, which limits the ability of rural communities to pay for electricity.
The goal of universal access to modern energy in Africa calls for investments of US$25 billion per year, around 1% of global energy investment today.