On June 14, the United Nations released its 2021 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Report, which examines the world’s progress toward accomplishing the SDGs. The most recent edition placed special emphasis on the COVID-19 pandemic given its role in reversing many SDG gains. More specifically, the authors note that years or even decades of progress have been halted or reversed due to the pandemic.

For example, countries have made major progress relating to SDG 7—ensure access to affordable, reliable sustainable, and modern energy for all. While the electricity sector has increased and renewable energy has improved, millions of people still find themselves without power and many major improvements are under threat. While 46 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population now has access to electricity—up from 33 percent in 2010—the region is far behind the global average of 90 percent. Indeed, 97 million people in urban areas and 471 million in rural areas are still without access to electricity.

Moreover, according to United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division, the COVID-19 pandemic could reverse progress in some countries. In fact, in developing countries in Africa, the number of people without electricity increased in 2020 (after declining over the past six years) and basic electricity services are now unaffordable.  Moreover, the cost of electricity services in sub-Saharan Africa remains among the highest in the world—and those who can afford electricity often face unreliable service.

Read the full article about electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa by Tamara White at Brookings.