On average, 60% of the population across the 15 countries that comprise the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) is based in rural areas. Rural electrification rates in the region remain extremely low and estimates suggest that, for the region as a whole, only 19% of the rural population has access to electricity. Traditional biomass, which is utilised mainly for cooking, represents the bulk of final energy consumption in the region. In urban areas, charcoal remains the basic fuel despite efforts to promote liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), whilst the rural population tends to use firewood in traditional stoves. With increasing population and urbanisation, the use of firewood is having a severe impact on forest and
woodland environments. It also has a negative effect on the health and quality of life of rural
and urban people, in particular, women and girls.
From 23 to 25 May 2016, the Smart Villages Initiative along with SNV Ghana organised the
first regional workshop in West Africa in Accra, Ghana to develop a better understanding of
rural energy access in the region. The workshop brought together stakeholders from 13 countries from across the region and garnered substantial interest among a wide-range of stakeholders including representatives from the public sector, the donor community, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the private sector, and academia.
Workshop participants were informed about SNV Ghana’s efforts to improve energy access
in rural areas in the country by investing in developing sustainable market systems in these
communities. The government of Ghana is also actively involved in ensuring universal energy
access in the country by 2030. For remote rural communities, the strategy calls for promoting decentralised electricity generation systems such as mini-grids or solar home systems (SHS).
Across West Africa, there is a huge potential to increase renewable energy generation; however,
these resources remain unexploited due to economic, political, and capacity constraints.