Accepted paper:

Escalating expectations of electricity access, reliability and affordability: the case of Ikelenge in North-western Zambia


Lina Brand Correa (University of Leeds)
Lizzie Caperon (University of Leeds)
Julia Steinberger (University of Leeds)

Paper short abstract:

10 years ago, a remote rural community in North-western Zambia gets electricity access, from a local, off-grid, micro-hydro plant. Based on qualitative fieldwork data, we answer questions like: How have people's lives, and expectations, changed? Who got connected and who didn't? What happens next?

Paper long abstract:

During the course of the past 10 years, the town of Ikelenge (in North-western Zambia) has been transforming. First, the local hospital got electricity, then, little by little the electricity lines started to reach some of the people's homes and local businesses (mainly shops). In a relatively short space of time, people from this remote rural area went from having no modern energy access, to having cheap electricity. We present qualitative data from our fieldwork in this remote rural community, as well as the results from our analysis of how the recent access to electricity has changed people's day-to-day lives, as well as their expectations of access, reliability and affordability. The changes in people's lives go way beyond "extending the day" through lighting, into areas such as diet (with the introduction of refrigeration) and renewed possibilities for economic activities (with the introduction of different electricity-powered machines, for example for rock-crushing and fruit-drying). We also explore the history of the development of the off-grid micro-hydro power plant (owned and funded by a local development trust, built with local workforce and materials) and the impacts it has had in the community in general (for example on the ability of the local hospital and school to recruit and keep young and qualified personnel). Finally, we look critically into the possible futures of the scheme, including aspects such as improved financing, reliability and expansion, and the effects these will have, once again, on people's day-to-day lives and expectations.

panel Anth35
'We need electricity today': narratives and practices of electrical connections and outages in Africa