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Electricity subsidies in Southern Africa

Neil Noble

A colleague of mine at Practical Action is looking for information about the level of subsidies for electricity supply in Sub-Saharan Africa. Can anyone provide details on this subject? This is making a comparison between mains grid electrification and mini grid systems potentially being developed in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and other Southern African countries.

3 Answers


A useful websie for comparative tarifs is Wikipedia Unfortunately it is out of date and does not have details of any of the countries that you list apart from South Africa.

Looking at my domestic electricity bill here in Zimbabwe there is a sliding scale as follows;

First 45 Kva at US$0.024/Kva Next 225Kva at US$0.112/Kva Therefter 0.150/Kva On top of this I pay a 6% rural electrification levy.

There is a move to change over to pre-paid meters though I have not been changed yet. For those buying pre-paid credit it is slightly more expensive for the low users but cheaper for anyone who uses more.

There are different rates for agricultural and industrial users as can be seen in the out of date tarif structure at Similar information can probably be found on the Internet for other countries.

Whether this is subsidised or truly reflects the cost of production I do not know. While power was very cheap here a few years ago it has risen to meet market prices as the government is not in a position to subsidise anything. A significant part of the electricity both here in Zimbabwe and in Zambia comes from the Kariba hydro-electric station with most of the rest of the domestic production coming from Hwange coal fired station.

The Southern African Power Pool ( provides a mechanism for trading electricity between countries in the region. At the moment there is generally a surplus from the Cabora Bassa hydro-electric station in Mozambique. Zimbabwe also imports electricity from South Africa where there is a mix of HEP, thermal and nuclear stations. The region as a whole does not have sufficient generating capacity and there is frequent load shedding here and even in South Africa now.

While price is very important, especially for small users, reliability of supply with mini grid systems may also be attractive, especially where irrigation is involved and a long power cut can lead to crop failure.

EWB USA Energy

The sliding scale Martinager noted - "First 45 Kva at US$0.024/Kva Next 225Kva at US$0.112/Kva Therefter 0.150/Kva " is fairly typical since the kVA demand of a customer dictates the size of the transformer and contributes to the wire size of the distribution path, along with the other customers kVA demand on that circuit.

Most U.S. homes, even in deep south with air conditioning, have demand under 10-15 kVA, so only larger commercial or industrial customers anywhere would be expected to exceed 45 kVA demand. The energy charge is the cost per kW and relates back to the cost to produce power. The kVA charge portion of the bill really relates to the cost to transport and deliver the power to the customer.

lisa feldmann

Dear Neil,

your colleague might look at the countries portal on Although electricity subsidies are not a topic by its own you might find such information on the respective country pages and further useful links to national policies and authorities. Direct link:

Furthermore, since energypedia is a wiki, every registered user can add further information to the articles, so once your colleague has finished his/her research he/she is very much invited to share results with the public on energypedia.