Plug In, Power Up! Connecting to Grid Electricity in Africa

Nov 29, 2017 4:45 - 6:30 p.m.
Washington, DC

Presentation Materials:

Presenter Bios Presentation Slides

electrical lines in African landscapeMillions of Africans live without access to electricity. In many sub-Saharan countries, families that can’t connect to an electrical grid are often forced to seek other sources of electricity—such as batteries, which are costly; kerosene, which is unhealthy; and generators, which are both costly and routinely hazardous.

Grid electricity could provide these families with a less expensive source of light, help them stay productive, and improve the delivery of critical services such as health care, schooling, and public safety. Such changes could in turn strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life for millions of families in Africa. But a number of challenges may prevent sub-Saharan countries from achieving these goals.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in programs designed to bring grid electricity to African countries. Initiatives like Power Africa bring together African governments and private-sector partners to boost investments in energy security and to help these countries achieve their goals for electrification. MCC partnered with Mathematica Policy Research to evaluate the success of its energy-sector investments in Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, and Tanzania, and Mathematica recently completed its evaluation of the energy project in Tanzania.

Mathematica’s Center for International Policy Research and Evaluation (CIPRE) convened a panel of experts to discuss initiatives to expand grid electricity in sub-Saharan Africa as well as recent evidence on the possible benefits and challenges of such expansion. Panelists discussed (1) Power Africa’s investments in the energy sector, including grid electricity; (2) successes and challenges of rural grid electrification in Tanzania and elsewhere in Africa; and (3) areas where more evidence is needed to inform policy decisions on investing in grid electricity.


  • Candace Miller, senior researcher, Mathematica


  • Kathleen Auth, deputy energy office director and grid roll-out team lead, Power Africa
  • Duncan Chaplin, senior researcher, Mathematica
  • Jörg Peters, head of the research group on climate change in developing countries, RWI


  • Shreena Patel, director of evaluation, MCC

This event will be valuable for professionals and policymakers who focus on energy-sector issues, including staff at:

  • Governments seeking to understand the impact of expanded grid electricity
  • Foundations
  • USAID, MCC, and other federal agencies
  • The World Bank and other multilateral donor agencies
  • Nongovernmental organizations
  • Implementing organizations

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