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Copyright © 2019 LBS Photography Awards

Winner: Story Award 2018

Africa Living Without Electricity

Pascal Maitre

“Africa cannot continue to enlighten other continents with its resources remaining hidden in the dark.”

  Macky Sall, President of Senegal, 20/09/2016, New York.

620 million Africans live without electrical power.

 

Not only do electricity shortages in Africa represent a major obstacle for the continent’s growth, development and industrialisation, but they also put a threat on health and security. We've all once had the chance to see the awe-inspiring composite satellite imagery that maps night light emissions from the Earth's surface. Created from superimposed photography on clear night skies, this nighttime view reveals an "overly lit" Northern Hemisphere, prompting discussions about light pollution. Next to it, Africa seems "shut off", in total darkness except for a few tiny pockets of light. Yet the African continent has limitless resources – sunlight, wind and water – that would enable it to produce electricity on a large scale! This is one of Africa's paradoxes.

 

"When Africa will be better lit, the world will look at it differently"

 

Merely 25% of the inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, and on an irregular basis. This number drops to 8% in rural zones. 48 African countries counting 800 million inhabitants generate the electricity equivalent to Spain, which has a population of 45 million. With a population projected to reach 2 billion in 2030, such fast growth becomes a tragedy when electricity production doesn’t keep up. This battle seems lost in advance as each year sees an additional 10 million people without electricity access.

 

Blackouts and load shedding (deliberate shutdowns to prevent the failure of the entire system) are one of the major concerns of urban Africans, not to mention the biggest subject of discussion and anger amongst inhabitants of both big and small cities.

 

Shortages and reduced access to electricity:

 

Lower the quality of life of populations

Affect the proper functioning of clinics and hospitals

Cause important sanitary issues, which can spread diseases like Ebola

Make night-time studying impossible

Favour the utilisation of kerosene lamps, which can harm the eyes with smoke emissions and even cause death from accidental fires

Inhibit Africa's long-needed industrialisation developments

Increase security issues and social tension