Re-focusing foreign involvement in sub-Saharan Africa's power sector on sustainable development

Philipp A. Trotter, Sabah Abdullah

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International engagement in sub-Saharan Africa's power sector is increasing rapidly. Aid is used to directly finance a growing number of foreign companies to implement power projects, accompanied by calls for policy and governance reform. This paper argues that while new and much-needed finance is becoming available, the current approach to foreign support poses several new challenges for broad and sustainable long-term development of the African power sector. They include a focus on creating market opportunities for non-African rather than domestic companies, the difficulty of delivering large-scale rural electrification through the externally advocated market-based approach, economic inefficiencies of current aid spending, and the difficulty of tackling complex, country-specific issues with continental electrification initiatives. To address these challenges, we suggest redirecting public funds towards rural electrification, increasing African ownership, individualising policy interventions and easing the current types of neoliberal conditionalities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-146
Number of pages8
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
Early online date4 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • African energy sector
  • Electrification
  • Foreign aid
  • Power Africa
  • Sustainable development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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