Electricity has and always will be central to African economies. But the irony is that the continent most dependent on electricity for its economy is the most under-serviced region in the world. In South Africa, one of the continent’s most developed economies, some 35% of the population do not even have access to the electricity grid.
So the question then is how do you get investment into the sector that serves the public at large? Is this by having a public sector that serves the private sector by providing it with access to some of the cheapest industrial electricity in the world, then claims that such investment will trickle down through job creation, education and so on. Or does one need a public sector that has progressive pricing and tax structures that allocates a larger chunk of free electricity to the poor by penalising the rich and big business?
For David McDonald, the editor and author of part of Electric Capitalism: Recolonising Africa on the Power Grid, when public sector bodies are public in name but private in nature, there is cause for concern. I’ll be exploring more of these issues on the business pages of the next issue of BBC Focus on Africa, the quarterly magazine of the African World Service.
November, 1, 2o10