What have you learned about promoting energy access in hard to reach access areas as a result of being part of this project?
When we talk about energy access, a lot of times people assume that these communities do need access to electricity. But, we did not realize that [many people] have been living without access to electricity since they were born and now it doesn’t really make a huge difference in their lives. Whereas there are instances where the quality of life could be improved and there could be economic gains if these communities get access to electricity, it’s really important to work with the communities and not just for them.
Our visits to these communities really showed us what are the desires of these community members and do they want electricity or not? What kind of services do they want? Because a lot of times, energy access is not just a great connection to your house, but are you actually using the lighting or the heating or the cooking? What are you using this electricity for? Do you have a restaurant and you only need a refrigerator to cool your cold drinks or do you actually need a cookstove that is electrified to cook food for others?
I think there are a lot of factors that go into the decision-making. They’re often overlooked in the equation where we’re calculating energy access, but working closely together with these communities is a really big part of it.
Excerpted from Ep. 91 Powering Rural Africa on the Sanford School of Public Policy website; listen to the Policy 360 podcast below.
Photo: Aashna Aggarwal (top left) poses with a family and Bass Connections team members after a household interview in the Monze district, Zambia.