Rural electrification and job creation: the key to promoting rural development in Sub-Saharan Africa

August 2023

Local PEP researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa find that rural electrification and national strategic investment frameworks aimed at job creation can empower women and spur rural development.

Local PEP researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa have found that rural electrification can significantly empower women and spur rural development by reallocating time from household tasks to paid work. To ensure sustainable change, they also recommend designing and implementing a national strategic investment framework aimed at job creation.


Supporting women's economic empowerment

In the pursuit of development and growth, rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa have often been overlooked in favour of urban regions. Policymakers and investors have primarily concentrated their efforts on cities and larger towns, leaving rural areas to face challenges such as lack of infrastructure, unemployment, and migration towards urban areas. After undertaking local research in Senegal, Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire, local PEP researchers have found that strategic public investments, specifically in rural electrification, and a national strategic investment framework for job creation in these underserved areas can boost rural development.

Rural electrification represents a significant opportunity for rural development and job creation. Research conducted under the Policy Analysis on Growth and Employment (PAGE II) initiative, particularly in Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria, shows that rural electrification programs can lead to employment growth ranging from 6% to 10% for rural populations. But the benefits go further, particularly for women. Access to electricity can lead to a substantial reduction in the time spent on household tasks. This timesaving can be reallocated to paid work in various sectors, such as farming and other non-farm industries, leading to increased income and empowerment for women.


Strategic national investments can reduce unemployment

The benefits of targeted investment are not merely theoretical. Senegal's "Plan Senegal Emergent (PSE)" is a practical example of a successful national program of integrated public investments. This approach has resulted in a significant reduction in unemployment rates, especially for youth and women. The program has led to the creation of between 121,000 and 397,000 jobs, with more than half of them (53-73%) occupied by women.

These findings underscore the need for other countries in the region to consider similar strategic investment frameworks. By focusing on sectors such as energy and education, nations can create sustainable job opportunities in rural areas, balancing growth between urban and rural regions.

The evidence is clear: public investments in rural areas are an effective means of creating employment opportunities and fostering growth. Rural electrification, in particular, is a pathway for overall rural development and women's empowerment. Further, designing and implementing a national strategic investment framework that focuses on rural areas could be a decisive step toward sustainable development. Such a targeted approach would address existing imbalances and ensure that progress is shared across both urban and rural communities.


These findings are from projects supported by PEP under the second Policy Analysis on Growth and Employment (PAGE II) initiative, co-funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and UK Aid.

Find out more about the projects featured:

This text was prepared with thanks to Dr. Alphonse Singbo and Mr. Jourdain Lokossou.


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