Around the world, more than 800 million people have no access to electricity. A large majority live in fragile states: countries categorized as having weak capacity and legitimacy, which, combined with conflict, holds them back from reaching their potential.
However, promising new developments, both in terms of reductions in cost and improvements in technology, indicate that renewable energy has the potential to reach people more widely than had previously been possible.
In a recent International Growth Centre (IGC) webinar, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid out three actions needed to help grant access to electricity for citizens of these fragile states:
“Firstly, governments must set the priorities on renewable energy. Second, energy development partners must align their programs with the government agenda. Third, civil society and people must be part of the dialogue to understand the priorities and know their roles and responsibilities in implementation.”
Madam Sirleaf also touched on some of the benefits of providing underserved communities with electricity, which she had observed firsthand in Liberia—making people feel safer in their own homes, bringing technological advances to hospitals, providing more opportunities to small businesses, and improving learning outcomes for students both in schools and at home when distance learning is necessary.
Improving access to energy can also hold significant benefits for women, in particular. Research has shown that it can enhance women’s security and economic opportunities, while also replacing the use of kerosene and wood for cooking, improving women’s health.
Panelists agreed that collective action, coordinated by private and public enterprises and civil society, has the power to set fragile states on a course toward greater peace, stability, and socio-economic development, lifting people out of poverty and edging closer to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Other speakers at the event included David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Francis Mustapha Kai-Kai, Minister of Planning and Economic Development of Sierra Leone, Namita Vikas, Founder and Managing Partner of auctusESG LLP, and Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, Prime Minister of the Republic of Yemen. The discussion was chaired by Jonathan Leape, Executive Director of the IGC and Associate Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
You can watch the full discussion on “Powering up energy investments in fragile states” here.