Kenya has been hailed as a successful sub-Saharan African country in attracting private investment for renewable energy. However, energy poverty remains very high, with connectivity rates lower than the average for sub-Saharan Africa and poor quality of supply for those connected.
Several constraints persist to achieve universal access to clean and affordable electricity: high system costs, including a deficient transmission and distribution infrastructure; low rural demand and inadequate planning to meet it; and local opposition to large renewable infrastructure.
This article considers the political economy of these constraints, explaining how they arose, which policies can address them and which actors back or oppose these policies.
The overarching message is that a prominent state role is required to fund the network components of the electricity system and to reach the less profitable segments of society, namely the rural poor. However, this clashes with a dominant private sector-led narrative in the international development community.