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Does Large-Scale Infrastructure Investment Alleviate Poverty? Impacts of Rwanda’s Electricity Access Roll-Out Program


  • Lenz, Luciane
  • Munyehirwe, Anicet
  • Peters, Jörg
  • Sievert, Maximiliane


The objective of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All) is to provide electricity by 2030 to the 1.1 billion people in developing countries that hitherto lack access. The OECD/IEA quantifies the investment requirements of this to be at 640 billion USD. Little evidence exists on socio-economic impacts of electrification. The present paper is the first to causally investigate the effects of electrification in Africa on all beneficiary groups. The electrification program under research, the Rwandan Electricity Access Role-Out Program (EARP), is one of the largest in the world. Our analysis is based on a panel of 974 households, a full-census survey among health centers, and qualitative surveys among 83 micro-enterprises and 50 schools. We find that EARP has been remarkably effective in increasing the connection numbers among all beneficiary types. Around 3.5years after electrification, the quantity of consumed electricity and the uptake of appliances, though, remain low. Noteworthy impacts are decreasing energy expenditures and a considerable reduction in dry-cell battery consumption with potential environmental benefits. Beyond this, electricity mostly facilitates people’s life, but there is only weak evidence for impacts on classical poverty indicators such as income, health, and education. We conclude by calling for more research on the comparison of on-grid and off-grid electrification with respect to impact potentials, costs, and people’s willingness to pay in order to inform the way forward within the SE4All endeavor.

Suggested Citation

  • Lenz, Luciane & Munyehirwe, Anicet & Peters, Jörg & Sievert, Maximiliane, 2017. "Does Large-Scale Infrastructure Investment Alleviate Poverty? Impacts of Rwanda’s Electricity Access Roll-Out Program," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 88-110.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:89:y:2017:i:c:p:88-110
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.08.003

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    1. Brijesh Mainali & Jyrki Luukkanen & Semida Silveira & Jari Kaivo-oja, 2018. "Evaluating Synergies and Trade-Offs among Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Explorative Analyses of Development Paths in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(3), pages 1-25, March.
    2. Houngbonon, Georges V. & Le Quentrec, Erwan, 2019. "Access to Electricity and ICT Usage: A Country-level Assessment on Sub-Saharan Africa," 2nd Europe – Middle East – North African Regional ITS Conference, Aswan 2019: Leveraging Technologies For Growth 201728, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).
    3. Grogan, Louise, 2018. "Time use impacts of rural electrification: Longitudinal evidence from Guatemala," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 304-317.
    4. Trotter, Philipp A. & Cooper, Nathanial J. & Wilson, Peter R., 2019. "A multi-criteria, long-term energy planning optimisation model with integrated on-grid and off-grid electrification – The case of Uganda," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 243(C), pages 288-312.
    5. Ryan Roberts & Josephine Kaviti Musango & Alan Colin Brent & Matthew Kuperus Heun, 2018. "The Correlation between Energy Cost Share, Human, and Economic Development: Using Time Series Data from Australasia, Europe, North America, and the BRICS Nations," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(9), pages 1-15, September.
    6. Bensch, Gunther & Grimm, Michael & Huppertz, Maximilian & Langbein, Jörg & Peters, Jörg, 2018. "Are promotion programs needed to establish off-grid solar energy markets? Evidence from rural Burkina Faso," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 1060-1068.
    7. Jakob Müllner, 2017. "International project finance: review and implications for international finance and international business," Management Review Quarterly, Springer, vol. 67(2), pages 97-133, April.
    8. AbuBakr Bahaj & Luke Blunden & Christopher Kanani & Patrick James & Isaac Kiva & Zoë Matthews & Heather Price & Hildah Essendi & Jane Falkingham & Gerard George, 2019. "The Impact of an Electrical Mini-grid on the Development of a Rural Community in Kenya," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(5), pages 1-21, February.
    9. Lie Ma & Dandan Li & Xiaobo Tao & Haifeng Dong & Bei He & Xiaosu Ye, 2017. "Inequality, Bi-Polarization and Mobility of Urban Infrastructure Investment in China’s Urban System," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(9), pages 1-19, September.
    10. Grimm, Michael & Lenz, Luciane & Peters, Jörg & Sievert, Maximiliane, 2016. "Demand for Off-Grid Solar Electricity: Experimental Evidence from Rwanda," IZA Discussion Papers 10427, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. Paul Bertheau & Ayobami Solomon Oyewo & Catherina Cader & Christian Breyer & Philipp Blechinger, 2017. "Visualizing National Electrification Scenarios for Sub-Saharan African Countries," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(11), pages 1-20, November.
    12. Holstenkamp, Lars, 2019. "What do we know about cooperative sustainable electrification in the global South? A synthesis of the literature and refined social-ecological systems framework," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 307-320.
    13. Peters, Jörg & Sievert, Maximiliane & Toman, Michael A., 2019. "Rural electrification through mini-grids: Challenges ahead," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 27-31.
    14. Bastien-Olvera, Bernardo A., 2019. "Business-as-usual redefined: Energy systems under climate-damaged economies warrant review of nationally determined contributions," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 862-868.
    15. Jörg Peters, 2017. ", by A. Estache and Q. Wodon," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(3), pages 460-462, March.

    More about this item


    energy access; difference-in-differences; electrification; mixed-methods; Sub-Saharan Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices


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