Despite rising commodity prices and concerns from international leaders about energy scarcities and gas costs at the pump, millions of people in Africa still do not have access to electricity.
Only three nations in West and Central Africa are on track to provide power to every citizen by 2030, according to the SDG7 agenda. In the region, 263 million people will go without electricity in ten years if things continue at this poor rate. One of the lowest rates of electricity access in the world is in West Africa, where only 8% of rural inhabitants and 42% of the general population have access to it.
These numbers—some much too large, some much too small—have serious repercussions. Enhancing people’s chances and options starts with electricity. Access is essential for increasing economic activity and helps to improve human capital, which is an investment in a nation’s future potential.
Children cannot complete their education at night without electricity. Businesspeople are unable to trade with one another or obtain market information. Even worse, as the COVID-19 epidemic has so clearly demonstrated, a lack of energy restricts hospital and emergency services, putting patients at even greater risk and tainting priceless medications.
How will West and Central Africa be powered?
Accelerating the transition to universal energy access is crucial right now in order to fuel the continent’s economic change and encourage socioeconomic inclusion. Without consistent access to electricity, a nation’s social fabric may suffer, with those without it growing weary of inequality. Here are some audacious strategies that are needed to address the energy access challenge in the African continent.
One of the things can be done is to make utilities profitable. Many electricity suppliers in the area are cash-strapped and run infrastructure and a generation fleet that is outdated and in poor condition. As a result, they are unable to provide their consumers with electricity that is both dependable and economical, much alone provide electricity to those who currently have to rely on subpar alternatives to electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, less than half of the utilities make back their operating costs, which causes GDP losses of up to 4% in some nations.
Lowering the cost of supply is a requirement for increasing electricity access to those who are currently without it, typically lower-income and frequently remote households. This is accomplished by improving the performance of national utilities and greening their power generation mix.
West and Central African nations must go outside their boundaries in order to further link their national utilities and grids to other systems in the area. This is a crucial second point. Without effective regional trade, many nations would be largely dependent on a small number of energy supplies and polluting generation sources, necessitating the importation of fuel at volatile international oil prices.
Last but not least, political leaders will need to dedicate a lot of time and effort to obtaining universal access to power, especially when it comes to creating laws and rules that can draw reputable investments.
Where there is energy there is life, but what if that same energy is the reason life is being destroyed? Non-renewable energy resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas have been abused extensively over the years; and not only are they detrimental to the environment, but they are bound to finish in the future. The switch over to more sustainable sources of energy has been something that has not been around for a hundred years yet, for that it could still be considered to be still in its infancy today.
Sustainable Development Goal 7 is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. It aims to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” According to “SDG7 Energy Compact of the Republic of Lebanon”, by the year 2030, universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services should be ensured, as well as increasing substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, and expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all.
Energy in Lebanon, ever since the mid-nineties has been dominated by oil, which represents more than 95% of the primary energy consumed in 2019 (Julian & Salameh, 2022). According to Electricité du Liban (EDL), in 1995 thermal energy expenditure was 4,349 GWh only to spike drastically to 14,617 GWh in 2017. In 2019, though, there is a noticeable decline in thermal energy expenditure as it settles at 11,665 GWh; with an increase in hydraulic energy from 415 GWh in 2017 to 829 GWh, thus almost doubling in two years. As a result, we notice that slowly, but steadily, Lebanon has been shifting its focus to renewable energy sources, thus aligning with SDG 7.
Source: World Bank Global Electrification Database from “Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report” led jointly by the custodian agencies: the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency ( IRENA ), the United Nations Statistics Division ( UNSD ), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Energy consumption in Lebanon has always been at a loss. From 1995 until 2019, Lebanon’s consumption averaged at 10,845 GWh whereas only 8,936 GWh has been averaged in production. Hence, this is where the deficiency lies. It is impossible to claim sustainability where there is an undersupply.
Despite the lack in production, Lebanon does in fact import sources of energy in order to fulfill the needs of the country in terms of electricity. That, though, does not reflect the reality of most Lebanese citizens. “For decades now, electricity has been a major issue in Lebanon. State-owned Electricité du Liban provides only two hours of electricity per day. However, some areas experience complete shut-off. Until today, the Lebanese people’s main alternative to state-provided electricity is resorting to private generators that work on diesel. Two problems emerge from this situation, the first one being the price of petroleum-related products” (Muro, 2021). Surprisingly, according to the most recent World Bank studies, in the year 2020, 100% of Lebanese have access to electricity. The reality of the situation is very different as aforementioned with privatized energy distribution becoming the norm, consequently aggravating the environmental situation.
Source:Electricité du Liban (E.D.L)
As the economic crisis intensifies day by day and energy costs rise by the hour, the more well-off portion of the Lebanese society has been resorting to alternative energy sources; mainly solar energy. Although that does not solve the problem per-se, it has spurred a mass transition as NGOs have hopped on board to provide solar panels to less-abled communities. As a result, more and more people have been stopping their memberships with alternative providers (generators).
It comes as no surprise, switching to solar energy. It is a step that is long overdue, and as the saying goes “necessity is the mother of invention”. Even though it is not exactly an invention, but through necessity, Lebanon is slowly becoming more sustainable! Lebanon has a lot of natural resources such as wind and water. However, the most interesting and important natural asset is the abundant sunshine, making solar energy in Lebanon the ideal alternative to consider for Lebanon to get out of the electricity crisis. Using solar energy in Lebanon saves money for the Lebanese people whose private generators’ cost keeps on increasing. In fact, for 12 hours of electricity a day, the fuel cost for private generators can be as high as $550 per day. Although the installation of solar panels is expensive as well, it is an investment. If someone pays $550 per day on fuel, installing solar panels will reduce their cost to around $140 per day. (Monzer, 2022)
Yet another possible solution, straying from the tradition of utilizing natural resources, is the use of yet another crisis Lebanon suffers from. The trash situation has been plaguing the country for years now and it is possible, with the right funding from the right individuals and associations to begin collecting this trash and transferring it to specialized factories that will in turn use it in order to produce energy. This long term investment thus solves two issues simultaneously, while providing job opportunities for many locals.
It is of the utmost importance in Lebanon to deviate away from oil as a main fuel for energy and depend more on renewable energy from resources such as sun, wind and water. In Lebanon up to 4.5% of electricity comes from hydropower and up to 95.5% from oil. Abiding by the goals set in the SDG 7 is a surefire way to take the appropriate steps to building a society in which sustainable energy is the norm. Despite being a long way from sustainable; with the aid of the diaspora, concerned NGOs, and the local community, it is possible to make use of nature’s bounties, which are plentiful in the 10,452 km2 of mountainous rushing streams, gusting winds of the vast planes, and the showering sunlight reaching every corner of the nation.
Authors: Tala Abdul Samad, Nour Al Bidewe, Basman Hariri, Sara Sadaka, Aziz Saliby, Jean-Pierre Sakr
Over the past two years, Lebanon has been witnessing compounded crises such as brain drain, poverty, unemployment, and inequality. On October 3rd, we wanted to listen to the factors that affected the Lebanese the most. Borhan, a 60-year-old man living in Beirut, was one of the people we met. We captured a video with him to show the suffering of the Lebanese since the start of the crisis where he comprehensively described the severe living conditions. As we all know, 2019 was a year of transformation for Lebanon, beginning with the October 17th revolution in 2019, following the global pandemic in 2020, and the rise of inflation. Borhan expressed the feelings of most Lebanese, where he identified the problems that we are facing as residents. Many people mentioned that specific sectors have been hit the most, therefore we would like to perform exploratory data analysis and surveys using different datasets to be able to identify inequalities. We are also interested in using a data-driven approach to identify gaps and inequalities that exist in the education, income, and health sectors.
As a result, we have exploited the World Bank’s World Development Indicatorsand we have identified several indicators which we have used as proxies to measure multidimensional poverty in Lebanon. We chose to have a topic related to the multidimensional poverty index in Lebanon compared to the Arab region. Since the multidimensional poverty index is calculated using three different dimensions, namely education, living conditions, and health, we decided to divide the three different dimensions among us.
Housing is a significant indicator of the multidimensional poverty (MDP), and based on ESCWA calculations, the main indicators to assume whether housing is counted as depreciation for a household or not are ‘Overcrowding rate’ – the percentage of the population living in an overcrowded household – ‘Housing type’ i.e. houses, apartments, row houses, townhouses and duplexes, ‘Sanitation quality’ – availability of handwashing facilities, toilet cleanliness.
Historical data related to housing utilities in Lebanon was gathered from theCentral Administration of Statistics (CAS), which contains significant indicators to measure MDP such as water, electricity, gas, actual rent, furnishings, household equipment and routine household, and others. Data is shown monthly from December 2007 till September 2022.
This data reported many indicators highlighting the increase in poverty on multiple sides. It is worth reporting that the consumer price index (CPI) Housing Utilities in Lebanon records the highest score this September 2022 (363.3) compared to October 2021 (215.9).
Looking at the nutrition level, food inflation was detected as the cost is more skewed to the right for the year 2021-2022; rising food prices reduce the purchasing power of food consumers. Another devaluation could be mentioned in the transportation sector, as the transportation sub-index of the CPI basket in Lebanon increased by 2339 points in September of 2022 (3,725), compared to August 2021 (1,386); the cost of transportation is significantly increasing, resulting in a limitation to access in the transportation sector.
It is worth mentioning that the CPI in Lebanon has more than doubled over the past year, peaking this September 2022 at a score of 1,611.4 against 714.8 in October 2021, and a higher CPI indicates higher inflation. This eventually leads to adjustments in the cost of living and income, which tends to worsen inequality or poverty as it hits income and savings harder for poorer or middle-income households than for wealthy households.
As stated by Joao Martins, MSF Head of Mission in Lebanon, “The crisis in Lebanon has been driven by years of corruption and now we are seeing that this can contribute to the destruction of an entire health system just as effectively as war or a natural disaster”. As a result, it is important to conduct a deep dive analysis on the healthcare system in Lebanon which is a dimension that measures multidimensional poverty.
First we will look at the current health expenditure (%of GDP) which takes into account the public and private health expenditure. By comparing Lebanon to the Arab World, we can notice that the current health expenditure is higher along the mid 2000 with Lebanon having 11% in 2000 while the Arab World having 4%. After that, Lebanon witnessed a decrease and the Arab World an increase reaching a value of 9% and 5%, respectively. The decrease in the expenditure in Lebanon has negatively affected the healthcare system as medication and vaccines are becoming scarce. Looking more closely, we can see in the next graph that the access to immunization has tremendously decreased in Lebanon. On average the access to vaccines (such as DPT, HepB3, and measles) has decreased from 83% (2000) to 67% (2021).
On another hand, we evaluated the demand for private insurance in Lebanon. As we can see, the demand has decreased from 70% (2000) to 45% (2021). This decrease is due to all private insurance companies converting their payment method to fresh U.S. dollars and since the NSSF benefits have diminished due to the economic crisis, most Lebanese people are now left with no proper access to health assistance.
We also conducted a survey on school and university students to analyze access to online education during the COVID-19 pandemic which was also identified as the new normal.
You can be part of our project by filling this online survey. Your answers are highly valuable to the development of our dashboard since the larger the sample size, the more accurate our results would be.
At a later stage, we would like to present our results to our target audience which are UN agencies, local NGOs, and Lebanese ministries. We got a total of 135 responses from all over Lebanon where the survey was populated via social media platforms. The majority of the respondents were university students or graduates. Most of them were unemployed or employed in a full time position.
We asked the respondents about their evaluation to their online experience; the answers rated their experience as poor or fair. On a scale from 1 being a very bad experience and 5 being a very good experience, most of the respondents rated the effectiveness of online learning as 3. In addition, we asked about the preferred type of education; the majority answered the traditional physical method as the most preferred following the hybrid method as second preferred. These answers make us conclude that the online learning experience was not that good in Lebanon. This might be due to the lack of training from the government and the teachers.
To further explore the facilities that were available to ease the online learning experience, we asked the people about their access to devices, electricity and internet. For the devices, the majority had access to devices that were mainly Mobile phones or laptops. Most of the respondents have access to electricity but not all the time while almost all the respondents have access to internet but the variance changed between access all the time and access but not all the time. Most of the respondents reflected that they couldn’t focus and they weren’t serious about their studies during online learning. Furthermore, on a scale from 1 being not at all to 5 being for sure, we asked the people about their willingness to retake the online experience. The answers varied between 1 and 2 mainly.
Finally, we asked the people about the disadvantages of online learning. Some of the responses include poor network, electricity cuttage, procrastination, weak communication, lack of motivation to study, more distraction, professors are not equipped with the resources, challenging experience for both students and professors. From this survey, we can conclude that Lebanon wasn’t prepared well for such a situation, especially its basic infrastructure which includes bad electricity and network services.
How many hours do you have access to electricity? At what time are the generators turned off in your region? How much was your electricity bill last month?
These questions might sound unfamiliar for citizens in many countries. However, they became part of any discussion in Lebanon reflecting the limited access to power for the majority of the population.
Which areas suffer from this same problem?
Most of the countries having energy shortage are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. For example, in South Sudan, Burundi and Chad, less than 10% of the entire population have access to electricity
Comparing the distribution of the average access to electricity between rural and urban areas, it can be observed that urban areas have more power access. Subsequently, countries having energy deficiency should consider using international funds for the installation of power distribution systems in rural areas.
What about Lebanon?
Although this country has a very remarkable amount of water resources, its hydraulic energy production is insignificant compared to its thermal energy production. Correspondingly, decisions should be taken to make use of our rich water assets.
The map shown below represents the distribution of the power stations in Lebanon.
Lebanon doesn’t have enough power stations which affects the power distribution among the areas and causes loss of energy in the transmission lines. Accordingly, the government should consider creating more thermal and hydraulic energy auxiliary stations to secure an even electricity distribution among all areas.
To increase electricity access, it’s recommended that the governments of developing countries take action by using wisely the international funds for the installation of power generation plants and transmission networks to cover all population needs (in all areas), taking into consideration economical and social conditions. Transparency in government should be followed by spreading public awareness to find and support policies that manage assets like coal, oil and gas as a source of energy and income. Moreover, the use of renewable sources including hydroelectric energy is an important step to generate electricity in both rural and urban areas.
World bank data : https://datacatalog.worldbank.org/home
Open data Lebanon: https://www.opendatalebanon.org/
It was 11:00 am on a Monday when I saw a nine-year-old boy, Bilal, lifting heavy rocks in a construction site. How many Bilals, children who toil long hours for a low wage, deprive themselves of education, and endure frequent violence and abuse just to financially support their families, do we meet daily?
Based on a study conducted by the Lebanese ministry of labor in 2013, there are almost 180,000 children working in Lebanon. Today, Lebanon is experiencing a huge decline in its gross domestic income (GDI). GDI is an economical metric that showcases the nation’s social welfare, and its deterioration results in more people living below 50% of the median income, and vice versa.
Thus, poverty is increasing in Lebanon, and more children as Bilal are being robbed of their childhood. The Lebanese government and supporting international organizations can take many initiatives to save Bilal and his friends; however, not all might have a fast and radical impact on the children labor phenomena. While observing international cases, through World Development Indicators dataset, I noticed that countries, which most of their population have access to electricity, have a lower percentage of poverty; thus, a lower number of employed children, and vice versa.
When power resources are available to the nation, people will have access to technologies, especially the internet. There are numerous internet usages that can create life opportunities for the individuals; for example, Bilal can access the internet to enroll in educational programs.
Considering the above, I appeal to the government and concerned institutions to utilize all their endeavors in providing a sustainable electrical solution for our children to live a “normal” life and have the chance to prosper.