Evolution of the global trends: an overall progress:

Energy alone is not sufficient for creating the conditions for economic growth, but it is certainly necessary and access to electricity is one of the clearest and un-distorted indication of a country’s energy poverty status.
 The IEA estimates that in 2008, 1.5 billion people, or 22% of the world’s population, had no access to electricity, of whom 85% live in rural areas. Since 2002, the unelectrified population has decreased worldwide by 161 million, despite the growth in world population of more than 500 million. However, if globally the situation is improving, the regional developments diverge ever more.  Whereas Latin America and Asia have substantially accelerated their electrification, most of Sub Saharan Africa lacks behind and does not even keep up with population growth.
Electricity access in the world (click to enlarge)
A region by region analysis: Immense disparities and despairs:
Africa: the blackout continentDespite the efforts of the international community and the fact that Energy has  been for the past years one of the main areas of the fight for economic development, the overall situation of Africa has gotten worse, mainly due to a population growth which has outpaced the slightly increasing electrification rates. In fact, still only 29% of the population has access to electricity today, the population without access jumping of 35 million from 2002 to 2008.
This increase is mainly due to Sub-Saharan Africa since North Africa, with large rural electrification programs like in Morocco, has reached during the past decade a level close to full electrification in both rural (98.2%) and urban (99.6%) areas. In total, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 99.6% of the unelectrified population in Africa, underlining the great disparities between both African regions.
These facts lead to two basic conclusions: first, the development goals are all linked with each other and access to modern energy is probably the most horizontal development issue of all. Secondly, these numbers show that without strong political commitments and the implementation of sustainable supporting frameworks, the electrification rate will never catch up with the population growth and the unelectrified population in the poorest regions of the world will keep increasing.
This trend is unacceptable. As the IEA figures prove developing countries can change course and can improve the situation within a reasonable period of time. Against this background ARE calls for national electrification targets of 2.5 % above the population growth” (ARE recommendations on the World Bank Energy Strategy Approach). With this target, in 2025, 67.3% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa would have access to modern energy, requiring the electrification of more than 350 million people over the next 15 years.
Sub-Saharan Africa, despite its numerous natural advantages (extremely favorable sun and wind conditions, big hydro potential and important sustainable biomass potential) and its dramatic needs, is not part of the global upswing of renewable energy.. However, the international concern, ever more favourable technology prices and the increased awareness of governments could, in the medium term, transform the continent into the next market with 2 digit growth. The off-grid renewable energy sector has been already stepping a foot in this market for a long time but is still far from reaching its potential. 
Northern Africa present very interesting solar resources and well as an important wind potential in several places. In this region the off-grid potential is still quite important and rather well exploited. Recently, large renewable energy projects are increasingly realized.
South and East Asia: much progress but still a long way to go In contrast, developing Asia has made dramatic efforts to increase the electrification rates in both rural (67.2%) and urban (93.5%) areas. The population without access to electricity was reduced by more than 200 million in less than a decade. This regional progress is mainly due to the rapid electrification of Southern Asia with an electrification rate jumping from 42.8% to 60.2% in only 6 years and this despite a population growth equivalent to sub-Saharan Africa.
However, there are still 809 million people unelectrified in Developing Asia, representing an impressive market especially for off-grid renewable applications. Southern Asian countries account for 42% of the total number of people without access to electricity worldwide, 92% of whom live in rural areas. In fact, none of the countries of South Asia and of the Indian Subcontinent have electrification rates above 60% (with the exception of Sri Lanka, the region’s smallest country). Bangladesh (94.5 millions), India (400 millions) and Pakistan (70.4 millions) together still have 564 million people without electricity.
In East Asia, countries have also enormously heterogeneous results with electrification rates as low as 24% in Cambodia or 13% in Myanmar and some countries which have almost reached full electrification like Malaysia (99,4%), Thailand (99,3%) and China (99,3%). In this region, Indonesia alone has more than 80 millions people without access to electricity.
Some of the Asian countries present the highest solar irradiations in the world, whereas others have already an important experience in Wind, Biomass or Hydro. That’s the whole paradox of this region: A substantial part of RE production is based here with state of the art manufacturing technology and high quality standards whereas on the other hand a large part of the rural population does not have access to electricity despite excellent natural conditions. It is self-evident that it makes sense to use the great PV potential of this region for further accelerating rural electrification .
Middle East: in the desert the lightData trends for Middle East show a dramatic increase in the number of people who have received access to electricity in the past years despite unclear progression certainly due to data collection modification, improvements or mistakes. Beside Yemen (14 million people without electricity or 61,2% of the population) and Iraq (4.2 million / 15%), other countries in the region are fully or almost fully electrified and present similar figures as North Africa and OECD countries.
The Middle East region is slowly turning towards renewable energies, especially the countries without fossil fuels reserves, and more particularly towards solar technologies have a great card to play in this sector with grid connected installations to increase their generation capacities, but also with off-grid to reach full electrification and/or to improve local situations (e.g. PV Water pumping).
Latin and Central Americas: almost there:
Latin American countries have demonstrated strong commitment and invested a lot to reduce the number of people without access to electricity. This is clear when one look at the absolute number (11 millions people have gained access in the past 3 years), at the global electrification rate (92.7%) and at the high urban rate (98.7%). Moreover, in the last decade 9% of all the continent’s rural areas have gained access to electricity.
A large part of the continent’s unelectrified population is concentrated in a few countries such as Peru (electrification rates of 28% in rural areas), Bolivia (38%), Haiti (11, 7%) and Brazil (4, 3 millions people without access); countries which, at the exception of Haiti, have developed ambitious electrification programs like “Luz Para Todos” in Brazil, the “Plan Nacional de Electrification Rural” in Peru, and  “Electricidad para Vivir con Dignidad” in Bolivia.
Except Brazil and its enormous hydro and biomass industry, renewable energies in Latin America are mostly limited to off-grid projects which have been the main drivers of the market so far. The taking off of the wind continental industry, the extremely favorable indigenous conditions, as well as the economic growth of the continent will probably change this within the next years whereas the continent will remain a very interesting market, as well as a good case study, for the off-grid sector.
Click to enlarge
Background Note on Electrification Figures

Since 2002, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been trying to keep up-to-date a database gathering worldwide electrification data and its evolution.  It presents information on urban and rural electrification collected from industry, national surveys and international sources. For the latest update, several major revisions have been made with better data, more recent census and rural surveys .Therefore, it probably delivers the most recent and accurate information about access to electricity worldwide. However, these numbers have always to be treated cautiously, if one takes into account the extreme difficulty to gather figures on rural areas of developing countries as well as the tendency of some governments to present their numbers in a favorable way.