Status of Power Sector Reform in Africa: Impact on the Poor
Available research literature on power sector reform in Africa indicates that few African decision-makers question the underlying rationale of power sector reform. Many simply accept it as a given and concentrate on identifying measures that would expedite the reform process. This tunnel vision perspective undermines the possibility of developing more nuanced alternatives that can generate a wider range of options that reflect the region’s characteristics and institutional/management capacity. This article is based on a regional study by the authors reviewing the status, challenges and prospects of ongoing and planned power sector reform in eastern and southern Africa with special emphasis on the implications for the poor. Reforms have improved generation capacity as well as financial performance in certain utilities. However, there are several challenges that reforms are yet to address. These challenges include poor performance at the transmission and distribution end; increased electrification of the poor; and; increased local participation in the power sector. There is inadequate information and data on how ongoing and planned power sector reform can be modified to address the aforementioned challenges, particularly with regard to electrification of the poor. This article suggests a number of measures that could allow the poor to benefit from power sector reform.