Africa’s Photovoltaic Turn: changing geographies of energy access, poverty, and justice in northern Uganda

Dr Paul Munro1

1University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney, Australia


The use of solar photovoltaic (PV) power is booming in East Africa. Once a rare, novel power source used by elites, over the past ten years the technology has become a ubiquitous feature of the East African landscape and is regularly used by poorer households, even in remote, rural locations. Kenya and Uganda, in particular, exemplify these trends. A recent World Bank report estimates that the two countries’ markets for off-grid photovoltaic products – both in terms of volume of products sold and financial value – ranked second and third only to the much more populous nation of India. In this presentation, drawing on a case study of a small village in northern Uganda, I provide a critical examination of the social dimensions of this energy transition. Drawing on interviews and observation data, I show how new photovoltaic technologies has helped to create opportunities as well as problems that are challenging and changing the rhythms of rural life. Specifically, I focus on the politics and power dynamics that surround the geography of PV electricity access, and how new energy poverty and energy justice challenges have emerged in the context of Africa’s photovoltaic turn.


Dr Munro is a Scientia Research Fellow and member of the Environmental Humanities group at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). His research is grounded in the fields of political ecology and environmental history, and has written extensively on forest governance and energy justice, with a particular geographical focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. His current research is focused on the changing geographies of energy poverty. How the emergence of new energy technologies, new trade dynamics and financial platforms have reshaped how people realise their energy needs in energy poor contexts.

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