Electricity only reaches one in three Afghans

Mon Jan 9, 2012 2:37am EST
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By Agnieszka Flak

KABUL (Reuters) - Only one in three Afghans has access to electricity despite years of spending to improve supply, and the country is still far too dependent on imported power, the head of the country's state owned power utility told Reuters.

Abdul Razique Samadi, the chief executive officer at Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), said the situation in the capital, Kabul, is far better than the rest of the country, with around 70 percent of households connected.

"Instead of having electricity for two hours, we have power for 24 hours and it is quite reliable," he told Reuters.

About half of India's 1.2 billion people have no access to power and less than a third of sub-Saharan Africa is electrified.

Connecting Afghans to power is key to boosting an economy weakened by decades of war and improving living standards in a country with a poor record on health and education.

Demand in Kabul has tripled over the past five years and is rising each year. Samadi estimates Afghanistan will need around 3,000 megawatts (MW) to meet the country's needs by 2020, compared with current supply of around 600 MW.

But demand is still so modest that his total forecast for 2020 is just 5 percent of what is consumed by the United Kingdom now -- even though Afghanistan's population is already nearly half the size of Britain's.

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<p>An Afghan man repairs electricity cables along the streets of Kabul November 16, 2009. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen</p>