Access to basic, clean energy services is essential for sustainable development and poverty eradication. Still, many people worldwide lack access to modern energy, such as electricity. In Africa, the lack of electricity services is affecting in particular rural areas. Support to rural electrification is therefore given high priority by the national governments and donor organisations. There is an international trend towards deregulation and privatisation of electricity supply, which is also affecting the way to organise rural electrification services in developing countries. The objective of the work presented in this thesis has been to reach increased knowledge of the impact from organisational and institutional factors on project sustainability. The thesis presents the first part of the on-going study, and is focused on the development aspects and factors that are of direct importance for the sustainability of the electricity services. The result presented will contribute to the understanding of the critical factors, and provide input to the second part of the study, which will focus on the broader sustainability aspects of rural electrification in developing countries. From a study of six projects in Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya, using different organisational set-ups and supply technologies, findings show that with sufficient economic, managerial and educational support in the beginning of an organisations life, an electrification project can manage to survive and develop. The projects have many strengths and weaknesses in common, indicating that there is no single most appropriate organisation form for electricity services in rural areas. The present trend with a greater emphasis on privatisation and private sector involvement however implies a risk of marginalising other forms of organisations, such as community-based organisations, government utilities and co-operatives. Among many stakeholders there are a number of "concepts-taken-for-granted" on rural electrification. These are however not supported by the findings from the study. The observed deviations between expectations and realities can obstruct the development since leading decision-makers may have unrealistic expectations when planning for new electrification activities. Future efforts should therefore be concentrated on additional evaluations of experiences from implemented electrification projects, where the opportunities and constraints of rural electrification can be tackled with the empirical reality in mind. By doing so the ambiguities, complexities and all the paradoxes of rural electrification can hopefully be better managed. The findings show that electricity by it self does not lead to sustainable development. Productive uses are mainly constituted by low-load uses, such as lighting for extension of working hours for shops and bars, and to enable lighter forms of income-generating activities in households. Additional findings show that there are still many constraints that likely will affect foreign investors to remain scarce in the rural electricity sector in many countries in Africa, at least for the next few years. The work presented in the thesis has been performed through funding from The Swedish International Development Agency, Department for Research Cooperation (SAREC). Additional financing has been received from Ångpanneföreningen's Foundation for Research and Development (ÅFORSK). The project is part of a research cooperation programme between Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Luleå University of Technology.
Luleå: Luleå tekniska universitet, 2005. , 43 p.