Energy

No electricity means no wealth

There is a clear relationship between electricity consumption and wealth, which explains why Eskom load-shedding is so devastating to South Africa.

The relationship is illustrated by plotting electricity or energy consumption against gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

It reveals that countries that consume less electricity have a far lower GDP per capita, while countries that consume greater energy are richer.

Five countries have energy consumption of lower than 100 kilowatt-hour (kWh) per person – Haiti, South Sudan, Niger, Ethiopia, and Benin.

These countries are some of the poorest in the world and struggle with problems like absolute poverty.

On the other end of the scale, numerous countries, which are typically very rich, consume over 10,000 kWh per capita.

These countries include the United States, Sweden, Luxembourg, Finland, Canada, Qatar, Bahrain, Norway, and Iceland.

Most of these countries are known for having stable and strong economies and their citizens enjoy high living standards.

The relationship between electricity and wealth is logical, as increased energy availability increases the number of production possibilities.

Industrial revolutions are characterised by technological developments significantly increasing production output.

The First Industrial Revolution, for example, was closely linked to steam power increasing productivity in manufacturing and accelerated transportation.

The Second Industrial Revolution integrated scientific knowledge into technological developments, leading to electrification used to power equipment, machinery, and tools.

The Third Industrial Revolution, which was largely based on the discovery of the semiconductor chip, also relies on a stable electricity supply.

Having enough or even excess electricity ensures that there are fewer restrictions on the extent to which an economy can innovate and grow.

In South Africa, the lack of a stable electricity supply is preventing businesses from growing and is putting a cap on economic growth.

The result is a decline in GDP per capita, which means South Africans are getting poorer while the rest of the world is getting richer.

Electricity consumption and wealth

The chart and table below show the relationship between energy consumption and wealth:

CountryElectricity use (kWh/capita)
Haiti40
South Sudan41
Niger51
Ethiopia68
Benin97
Tanzania102
Democratic Republic of the Congo105
Nigeria142
Nepal144
Togo151
Kenya167
Congo194
Myanmar220
Senegal233
Sudan264
Cote d’Ivoire271
Cambodia273
Cameroon280
Angola310
Bangladesh317
Ghana339
Pakistan420
Mozambique483
Sri Lanka520
Nicaragua562
Guatemala601
Honduras608
Philippines691
Bolivia728
India797
Indonesia808
Morocco903
Syrian Arab Republic908
El Salvador950
Jamaica1085
Gabon1119
Iraq1244
Colombia1320
Peru1334
Algeria1369
Ecuador1376
Tunisia1408
Cuba1448
Tajikistan1486
Egypt1592
Dominican Republic1597
Namibia1675
Botswana1678
Paraguay1682
Moldova1725
Libya1890
Jordan1921
Costa Rica1923
Kyrgyz Republic1941
Armenia1977
Mongolia2032
Panama2071
Mauritius2182
Mexico2186
Azerbaijan2202
Albania2309
Thailand2484
Lebanon2583
Romania2584
Turkmenistan2586
Brazil2611
Georgia2694
Turkiye2815
Kosovo2818
Iran2928
Argentina3075
Uruguay3093
Bosnia and Herzegovina3361
Ukraine3419
Suriname3493
Latvia3507
North Macedonia3514
Cyprus3549
Belarus3690
Croatia3714
Lithuania3821
Chile3895
China3905
Hungary3966
Poland3972
South Africa4184
Serbia4272
Malaysia4539
Montenegro4612
Portugal4663
Bulgaria4709
Curacao4798
Malta4925
Italy5002
Greece5063
United Kingdom5130
Slovak Republic5137
Spain5356
Kazakhstan5600
Ireland5672
Denmark5859
Hong Kong6083
Czechia6259
Oman6475
Israel6601
Russian Federation6603
Trinidad and Tobago6661
Netherlands6713
Slovenia6728
Estonia6732
France6940
Germany7035
Switzerland7520
Belgium7709
Japan7820
Austria8356
Singapore8845
New Zealand9013
Saudi Arabia9048
Brunei Darussalam10121
Korea10497
United Arab Emirates11563
United States12994
Sweden13480
Luxembourg13915
Finland15250
Kuwait15298
Canada15588
Qatar16415
Bahrain19970
Norway23000
Iceland53832

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