Today I have been discussing with my team a controversial article released couple of days ago regarding the latest Afrobarometer report on the lack of energy access in Africa.
Some background for who is not familiar with the context: Afrobarometer is a pan-African non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions and related issues across more than 30 countries in Africa. Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples that yield country-level results with margins of error of +/-3%. They are funded from various sources, among which we have the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the U.S. State Department and Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation.
I say controversial because they have been investigating whether electricity is a priority in the agenda of the rural communities around those 36 African countries asking the following question "Cite the most important problems this country is facing that the government should address". As a result, in average, electricity comes at No. 11, far behind unemployement and health but ahaed of corruption and housing. This doesn't surprise me, since electricity should always be seen as a mean to an end thanks to the impact creation (e.g. increase in education thanks to extended hours of light available, employment creation with productive use appliances, poverty reduction thanks to expenditure reduction etc.).
Personally, I would have posed an additional question as "Cite the most important problems you are facing that you should address", as with the now widely-spread off grid electricity sources the rural households can provide to (some of) their electricity needs without necessarily involve the government, as another graph in the report shows. I wonder what it would have resulted from such question.
Moreover, I think it would be more statistically sound and interesting to compute such average using a weighted average based on the access to grid electricity and reliability of it; surely countries where the grid is stable and wide-spread won't think that electricity is a problem to be addressed (e.g. Mauritius, Tunisia, Algeria etc.)!
Find attached here the complete version of the report and feel free to comment here with your thoughts on the topic!