Access to electricity in Mediterranean countries
Universal access to electricity is a key indicator of inclusive development. Many countries around the world still lack widespread access to electricity, lowering the quality of life of (predominantly) remote rural communities and acting as a serious impediment to economic and social advances.
As recently as 1990, there were still millions of households in the Med using candles and kerosene as their main source of lighting.
During this period, more than half the population of Morocco did not have access to electricity. Syria (one in four people without access), Tunisia and Turkey (one in eight), and Egypt and Algeria (one in fifteen) were also countries that lagged far behind the Med’s European nations, most of which have enjoyed almost universal access to electricity for the past thirty years.
Since the nineties, however, the data paints an encouraging picture of sustained, rapid improvements.
In Morocco, more than 90% of the population had access to electricity in 2014, with MGI forecasts suggesting it may be possible to achieve near universal coverage by 2020 provided efforts continue. Turkey and Algeria have now achieved universal coverage, while in Tunisia, Egypt and the Palestinian territories the number of people without access to electricity has been reduced to 1 in 500.
MORE WORK NEEDED
Despite the impressive improvements documented above, however, more work remains to be done. Past experience suggests that going from near-universal to universal coverage requires intensive efforts, as the communities affected tend to be either very remote or suffer from extreme poverty. The disproportionate costs involved in electrifying these communities often lead to governments delaying or halting electrification projects in these areas, and it is crucial that such barriers are overcome if truly inclusive societies are to emerge.
Furthermore, it is important to always remember that the gains recorded should not be taken for granted. 100% of Libya’s population had access to electricity in 1990. This had actually decreased to 98.5% in 2014, and the situation has likely deteriorated further in recent years as a result of political instability in the country. Data relating to Syria have also been increasingly unreliable since the start of the war, and it is almost certain that the true picture on the ground is much worse than portrayed by published statistics.
In summary, efforts to bring electricity to everyone have vastly improved the quality of life of some of the Med’s most disadvantaged communities and should be celebrated – but the job is far from finished.