Electricity for better lives in rural Tanzania and Mozambique. Understanding and addressing the challenges
Licentiate thesis, 2012

Provision of electricity is essential for economic and social development. It renders possible modern communications, industrial and business development and provision of public services such as improved education and healthcare. But in rural Tanzania and Mozambique, less than 5% of the people have access to electricity from the national grids, and at the current pace it is unlikely that the majority of the rural population will be connected to the grid within a foreseeable future. Therefore decentralized, off-grid electrification is needed as a complement. These countries are rich in renewable energy sources, which could be utilized to meet the energy needs of rural people. The overall aim of the thesis is to identify and understand – from the perspective of involved actors – country-specific drivers and barriers, and prerequisites, to rural electrification in general, and off-grid electrification using renewable energy technologies in particular. The thesis includes a review of previous literature, presenting an exhaustive list of barriers to rural electrification (RE) in sub-Saharan Africa. The theoretical contribution is a bridging between research fields, done by a conceptualization of RE processes that combines a socio-technical system perspective with a user perspective that focus on how actors gain, control and maintain access to electricity and related benefits. It opens up for a valuable discussion on system functionality and sustainability. There is also a methodological contribution and discussion, developed in article 3, which highlights the importance of scale of observation and epistemology in research on complex processes of societal, technological and environmental change. The empirical work is based on qualitative interviews, project site visits in Tanzania and Mozambique and literature review. The results are presented in articles 1 and 2. The findings are in line with previous studies, but some barriers not previously emphasized in literature come out as important and ambiguous. The thesis also discusses why productive uses of electricity, which are seen as highly important, do not occur as much as hoped for and the multiple roles that private sector actors can take in RE, as producers, electricity consumers and service providers. So far, RE projects have not paid enough attention to what happens after introduction of electricity, and to possibilities for enhancing the capabilities of local actors to make full use of development potentials. Keywords: Rural electrification, Africa, Rural development, Renewable energy, Off-grid, Drivers and barriers, Access to electricity, Socio-technical systems


Access to electricity

Rural electrification

Rural development


Renewable energy

Drivers and barriers

Socio-technical systems

EA-salen, Hörsalsvägen 11, Chalmers tekniska högskola
Opponent: Tanja Winther, PhD, Senter for utvikling og miljø, Oslo Universitet, Norway.


Helene Ahlborg

Chalmers, Energy and Environment, Environmental Systems Analysis

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)


Subject Categories

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

Report / Division of Environmental Systems Analysis, Chalmers University of Technology: 2012:3

EA-salen, Hörsalsvägen 11, Chalmers tekniska högskola

Opponent: Tanja Winther, PhD, Senter for utvikling og miljø, Oslo Universitet, Norway.

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