Charged numbers: access to electricity in Tanzania


Mwananchi fp 120615In her budget speech to parliament yesterday, Minister of Finance, Saada Mkuya Salim, gave some positive figures on access to electricity in Tanzania. Between 2011 and 2014, she said, access to electricity increased from 7% to 36% (see page 44).

The figure made it onto the front page of Mwananchi newspaper.

Numbers that don’t sound plausible are worth checking out, especially when presented by politicians. So I decided to check the sources.

As the Minister’s speech does not give references, I looked around to see what data I could find. Limiting myself to the last 5 years, I found data from NBS household surveys, the World Bank, the recent Africa Progress Report on electricity in Africa, and from the Big Results Now annual report for 2014. Here it all is, roughly in time order, and including the figures from the budget speech (in green) and the BRN target for 2016 (in orange):

More details of each source can be found here.

Some thoughts:

  • There’s a lot of variation in these figures – even those collected through household surveys.
  • It seems very unlikely that the 2011 figure in the budget speech can be accurate – all the surveys reported higher levels of access than this.
  • It seems very unlikely that the 2014 figure in the budget speech can be accurate – it is well beyond any of the survey data shown here and would mean that the BRN target for 2016 has already been met by some distance.
  • Nevertheless, just looking at the blue bars, there is some (inconclusive) evidence here that access to electricity is indeed increasing.

2 thoughts on “Charged numbers: access to electricity in Tanzania

  1. Ivan Cuesta

    Hi Ben,

    Great post!

    Amongst all the sources you mention, I would say the most reliable figure is that provided by the DHS survey (sample size :12,000 households; compare with 3,265 hh for Panel Survey, for instance) – unfortunately outdated, and no update until the ongoing 2015-16 DHS survey is completed.

    Also, the wording of the question in the DHS questionnaire is more attuned to gauging access, imho: ‘Does your household have electricity? (Yes/No)’ [DHS] allows respondents to answer No in case they are connected to the grid but cannot afford the bill or suffer from unreliable supply; whereas ‘What is household main source of electricity?’ [National Panel Survey] leaves less room for that nuances.

    The source for the BRN report (& any Ministry of Energy statistical report) is likely to be TANESCO; yet ministries and utilities tend to measure access in terms of the number of households connected to the grid – irrespective of how frequent is the supply, or whether it is affordable or not. As you may know, studies have found significant gaps between connection and access – and even between on-grid and ‘under grid’ households, such as in Kenya (

    Thanks for the post.


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