A Review of Energy Communities in Sub-Saharan Africa as a Transition Pathway to Energy Democracy

Energy communities have received considerable attention in the Global North, especially
in Europe, due to their potential for achieving sustainable energy transitions. In Sub-Saharan Africa
(SSA), energy communities have received less attention partly due to the nascent energy systems
in many emerging SSA states. In this paper, we argue that these nascent energy systems offer an
opportunity to co-create energy communities that can tackle the energy access challenges faced by
most SSA countries. To understand how such energy communities are realised in the sub-region,
we undertake a systematic review of research on energy communities in 46 SSA countries. Our
findings show that only a few energy projects exhibit the conventional characteristics of energy
communities; In most of these projects, local communities are inadequately resourced to institute
and manage their own projects. We thus look to stakeholder engagement approaches to propose co-design
as a strategy for strengthening energy communities in SSA. We further embed our co-design
proposal in energy democracy thinking to argue that energy communities can be a pathway towards
equity and energy justice in SSA. We conclude that energy communities can indeed contribute to
improving energy access in Africa, but they need an enabling policy environment to foster their
growth and sustainability.