Energy access takes center stage in fighting COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and powering recovery in Africa

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Contributed date

May 8, 2020 - 7:41pm

Critical Commentary

Seeing countries with the most robust economies struggling to keep it together in a global pandemic like COVID-19, I wondered how Africa would cope if the virus seeped into the continent. This article chronicles what plight the continent is in, and fortunately what is being done to curb the devastating impact of this pandemic by the World Bank and Sustainable Energy for all (SEforALL) in collaboration with governments, the private sector and other partners. 

The pivotal role of energy in keeping this virus abbey cannot be overemphasized: “from powering healthcare facilities and supplying clean water for essential hygiene, to enabling communications and IT services that connect people while maintaining social distancing”. With only 28% of healthcare facilities benefitting from reliable electricity; 43% of the sub-Saharan Africa populace being able to attain any form of electrification, and a whooping two-thirds of educational institutions not having consistent electricity, it’s no surprise that Africa is home to abject energy poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic is making the already energy vulnerable even more vulnerable because there is pressure on the already frail energy systems and being on lockdown, people will not be able to pay their electricity bills. There is thus the tendency for shut offs to be issued in households and businesses plunging them into darkness.

Despite how unfortunate this situation is, this could be a wake-up call for African governments. I think one reason for this looming and continuing cycle of energy poverty is as a result of policy makers applying a face value or superficial approach to assessing the problem of energy poverty. This is why in my opinion, employing the assemblage approach to assess energy vulnerability as proposed by Day & Walker (2013) is a great tool.  Energy vulnerability is encompassed of heterogeneric constituents which include human, non-human and abstract entities interacting with one another, and a “face value” approach will never unearth the core and sometimes dynamic elements of energy poverty. It is of a great necessity to decenter people as subjects to expose the nitty-gritty of the matter so that the right interventions and policies are implemented to ensure that the menace of energy poverty is alleviated. 

To ensure an effective recovery from this pandemic, measures being put in place include ensuring energy access for health and sanitation services; focusing on the most energy vulnerable; providing support for utilities and essential electricity providers and promoting clean cooking solutions. These are key to building momentum for a better economic recovery. 


Puliti, R. & Ogunbiyi, D. (2020). Energy access takes center stage in fighting COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and powering recovery in Africa. Retrieved on 5/8/2020 from



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Cite as

Riccardo Puliti and Damilola Ogunbiyi, "Energy access takes center stage in fighting COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and powering recovery in Africa", contributed by Barbara Ackun, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 13 June 2020, accessed 13 July 2024.