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Africa’s Low-Carbon Revolution

With the right regulatory environment and sufficient financing, renewable-energy technologies could transform Africa’s energy sector, bringing power to millions of the region’s citizens. Given the extent to which a lack of access to power impedes growth, job creation, and poverty reduction, there is no time to waste.

LONDON – Imagine you woke up tomorrow without access to modern energy. You have no refrigerator, cooking stove, or air conditioning. Your kids cannot do homework after sundown. You cannot charge your mobile phone. Welcome to the world of Africa’s unconnected – and to a market failure that is destroying opportunities for development on an epic scale.

Almost 150 years after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, some 620 million Africans – two-thirds of the region’s population – live without access to electricity. An even greater number use biomass for cooking, with over 90% of people in rural Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique using straw, dung, and firewood. The resulting household air pollution contributes to 600,000 deaths annually – half of them children under the age of five.

The international community has set the goal of guaranteeing universal access to electricity and modern energy by 2030. Yet the number of people lacking access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa is on the rise. Based on current trends, there will be 15 million more people living without electricity in the region in 15 years.

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