Report predicts huge shortage of clean cooking fuel for Africa by 2050

A new study from Loughborough University forecasts that 1.1 billion people in Africa will be without eco-friendly cooking fuels and technology by 2050, if action is not taken.

Researchers used machine learning to create a computer model that predicts clean cooking landscapes in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using holistic and historical country-level data, the model analyses population growth and factors that influence clean cooking accessibility, such as availability and affordability of electricity.

It forecasts that more than 840 million African people will not have access to clean cooking fuels or technologies in 2030, rising to over 1.1 billion people in 2050. Though access to clean cooking will increase in some parts of Africa, less than 20 per cent of the population in 16 countries will have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in 2030, increasing to 18 countries by 2050.

Cooking fuels and technologies are deemed ‘clean’ due to the levels of particulate matter and carbon monoxide they emit, as opposed to cooking with polluting biomass fuels, such as charcoal and wood.

Doctoral researcher Mulako Mukelabai, of Loughborough University, said: “The findings of this study evidence the need for a rapid paradigm shift in the developing world energy sciences to address energy poverty.

“We must act as the slow-moving access rate to clean cooking causes deforestation, habitat loss, indoor pollution, inequality, sustains low economic activities, and causes about 3.2 million deaths per year, including over 237,000 deaths of children under the age of five in 2020.”

Researchers found that the projected electricity generation for 2030 must triple if Sub-Saharan African countries are to reach the desired goal of more than 80 per cent of the population gaining access to clean cooking.

The team estimates achieving the 80 per cent access rate in all countries by 2030 requires an investment of $14.5 trillion (or $2.1 trillion annually), with support required from other nations. Researchers also highlight the importance of increasing income-generating activities in Africa, with hydrogen generation identified as a catalyst for manufacturing growth in key sectors.

The research was undertaken by Mukelabai and Dr Richard Blachard, also of Loughborough University, and Professor Upul Wijayantha, now at Cranfield University. The paper, titled ‘Using machine learning to expound energy poverty in the global south: Understanding and predicting access to cooking with clean energy’, can be read in full online.