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In Africa, Power Reliability Similar for All Business Sectors

In Africa, Power Reliability Similar for All Business Sectors

by Bob Tortora and Magali Rheault

This is the third in a series of articles about electric power in sub-Saharan Africa. Part one revealed that those who have access to the power grid at home assess their lives higher than those who use other sources of lighting. Part two showed that most workers, especially the self-employed and farmers, work without any electricity.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Workers in 17 sub-Saharan African countries who have electricity at their workplace report having had an average of about three days of power outage in the prior week. The lights are most often on in South Africa, Kenya, and Botswana, where workers report a day or less of blackouts in the last seven, while the reported average is about five days in Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

Power cuts in 17 sub-Saharan countries, by urban and rural areas

Reliable power at work or lack of it -- as measured by the average number of days in the last seven when on-the-grid workers experienced any regular or irregular power cuts -- is similar in urban and rural locations in most countries. In Tanzania and Zimbabwe, however, the average number of days with power cuts is slightly lower among workers in urban versus rural areas. But in Senegal, the opposite is true.

On-the-grid workers in South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, and Ghana all report blackouts of about one day or less in the last week. Nigerian workers who are on the grid are among the least likely to report reliable power at work even though the country's relatively large hydrocarbon resources represent an important source of electric power. Nigeria's average of 4.8 days of power cuts is on par with the average for the Central African Republic.

Power Reliability Similar for All Employment Types and Business Sectors

Those working for an employer report similar electric power reliability as those who work for themselves. In addition, even though farmers are the least likely workers to be on the grid, those who are report a similar level of reliability as other types of workers such as business owners and professional workers. Depending on the type of professional activity, this reliability (or lack thereof) could still mean nearly 100 workdays without power in a given year.

power reliability is similar across employment types

power reliability varies across professionsBottom Line

While many factors influence business performance, infrastructure, especially in terms of reliable power, is a fundamental pillar of economic growth. Overall, the Gallup results suggests that power reliability, or lack of it, affects all major business sectors in sub-Saharan Africa. But it is important to underscore that there is no difference in power reliability based on urbanization level among workers who are already connected to the electric grid. Although power reliability varies greatly, the findings point to the potential effect of inadequate infrastructure on economic growth in many countries surveyed.

According to World Bank Enterprise Surveys, power cuts in sub-Saharan Africa cost companies more than 10% of sales in certain countries. Some business owners can afford to buy and maintain generators, but it is an additional cost for their businesses. As such, inadequate power reliability also results in important productivity losses for individual businesses. Taken together, the Gallup findings underscore the need to approach the power challenge across the sub-continent by providing creative solutions for all economic sectors.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2010 in Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±3.4 percentage points to ±4.0 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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