IMPROVES-RE: better rural electrification in Africa
Maximizing the economic and social impact of electrification is crucial for rural populations, whose well-being depends on access to reliable power for essential public services and economic activities.
Launched in June 2005 the IMPROVES-RE project will help improve the traditional ways of planning rural electrification in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali and Niger, all in West and Central Africa.
The fundamental question to be addressed is: Within a given territory, and in order to ensure equitable access to energy services leading to economic and social progress, which area should be electrified first, using which technology, and at which costs?
To come up with an answer the project team proposes to use the functionalities of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) within a participative approach engaging both African and European project partners: On the African side, private companies and public authorities in charge of rural electrification will create links with other departments responsible for health, education, agriculture, transport or hydraulics. In Europe, the project team involves the Danish research laboratory RISOE, the Dutch foundation ETC and French engineering consultancy IED, which coordinates the project.
The first experiences with the innovative least-cost planning approach used by IMPROVES-RE are encouraging. The method allows evaluating the impact on social and economic development, which the electrification of a local area would have, and thus to define priorities. The range of services available within the area and thus its relative attractiveness compared to other places plays a mayor role within this assessment. As M. Bende Valentine, member of the Mbonge Rural Council in Cameroon said, "...even if the presence of a rural market is an important indicator of the level of economic activities in the local area, the number of people going there is even more relevant to determine its economic dynamism”.
From September 2006, the IMPROVES-RE partners will organise a number of local and national workshops to present and discuss the project results with local and national stakeholders. A final workshop with the participation of regional institutions of West and Central Africa will take place.
Denis Rambaud-Measson and Samuel Watchueng,
Innovation Energy Development (IED), France