In several countries across West Africa, Covid-19 has disrupted the way of life, stranding millions of families at home. This has forced citizens and public utility companies to design coping systems while ensuring basic coverage needs are met.
In Côte d’Ivoire, the postponement of bill payment deadlines includes electricity. Authorities have decided to extend payment deadlines for April and May 2020 for all households. The payment deadline from April has been extended to July 2020, and from May to August 2020. This measure affects more than a million households, or more than six million Ivorians.
“People have an additional three months to pay these bills. This measure means that no penalty will be applied to customers, and that there will be no suspension of the supply of electricity due to non-payment from April 1. In addition, the settlement of these invoices can be made in several payments over the deferral period,” says Abdourahmane Cissé, Ivorian Minister of Petroleum, Energy and Renewable Energies.
Added to the measures taken by authorities to reduce household expenses, national electricity networks are weakening across the continent, due the population being confined to their homes. In several African capitals and large cities, the national media report that power cuts and the application in certain cases of rotations by district in the supply of electricity.
It is in this context that the government of Nigeria has decided to install hybrid solar systems to reduce the effects of load shedding in COVID-19 patient care centers. Mini hybrid solar power plants have been installed by the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency in care centers for people infected with COVID-19 in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos State, as well as Ogun State in southwestern Nigeria.
‘Wash your hands with clean water and knowledge.’ This is one of the protective measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, this option is not widely available to everyone in Africa. The United Nations World Water Development Report (2019) indicates that in sub-Saharan Africa, only 24% of the population has access to a safe source of drinking water.
To facilitate hand washing, some African states have temporarily opened access to water to all citizens. In Togo for example, free water has been available since April 2020. The government of Ghana has taken a similar decision, as has the Gabonese government has started to distribute water via flatbed trucks in districts of the capital Libreville not served by the national network. The Energy and Water Company of Gabon set up the Clean Hands operation in a few days whereby water and hand washing devices are distributed to people living in disadvantaged areas of the Gabonese capital.
COVID-19 has had a strong immediate impact on daily life in Africa but it is also creating concern in the long-term availability of utilities, power especially. Indeed, renewable energy is an area of great to improve power access across the continent.
For the time being, specialists have not yet estimated the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the production of renewable energies in Africa. According to Norwegian consultancy Rystad Energy, solar and wind projects will be suspended in 2020, “creating a ripple effect in the years to come, as currencies around the world continue to tumble against the US dollar.”