Tanzania: Assessing and Mitigating Barriers to Low-Cost Connections

Speeches Shim

Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (TANESCO) is the state-owned utility in Tanzania, responsible for the full electricity supply chain, as well as the sale of electricity to the Tanzanian mainland and to the Zanzibar Electricity Corporation (ZECO). Since 2012, TANESCO has added over 800,000 customer connections to its network, bringing its total customer base to 1.9 million. However, it is still working to reach approximately 15 million people, who remain unconnected despite living in proximity to the distribution and transmission network. Connecting these households to the grid is a national priority for the Government of Tanzania. The SRUC team is working with the USAID Tanzania Mission to conduct a Low-Cost Connections Assessment to support TANESCO in this effort. More specifically, the SRUC team is helping identify and address financial barriers facing unconnected households in Dar es Salaam and surrounding regions by investigating lower cost home wiring solutions. The SRUC team will recommend innovative financial and technological solutions to overcome the identified barriers for house wiring and connections in peri-urban and urban areas.

Initial Barriers Assessment

Focus Group held in Temeke, Kigamboni
Focus Group held in Temeke, Kigamboni on December 5, 2017 with a mixed (i.e. connected and unconnected) group of local participants.

The SRUC Team has conducted extensive research, site visits in the Temeke, Ilala, and Coastal regions, and organized a series of focus groups designed to assess and verify customer preferences for house wiring and communications. In the first information-gathering phase, the SRUC team leveraged an analysis of existing data with targeted outreach to derive an initial understanding of the barriers facing unconnected households. The SRUC team subsequently sought to test initial hypotheses, along with other perceived barriers, such as a lack of information on low-cost connection options, through focus group sessions with potential and existing customers.

Focus Groups and Leading Practice Review

The SRUC team conducted seventeen focus groups, reaching 216 total participants in four different regions. Prior to conducting the broader focus group outreach, the team designed a focus group guide and questions to address five main categories of issues, including the following:

  • Connection barriers, electricity use, and ability to pay;
  • House wiring and low-cost wiring options;
  • Financing wiring and connections costs;
  • TANESCO customer relations and communications; and
  • Recommendations for TANESCO to increase its household connections.

The focus groups explored the team’s initial hypotheses around potential barriers to connection - such as upfront financial costs - and examined knowledge of household wiring options in the targeted urban and peri-urban households of Dar es Salaam. The focus groups gauged the current knowledge and appetite for low-cost connection/wiring options, such as ready boards.

Focus group held in Morogoro
Focus group held in Morogoro, Kilobero on January 18, 2018 with unconnected, local residents. The team led discussions around the types of low cost wiring options available with visual aids.

After facilitating the focus groups over course of two months, the SRUC team further validated the hypothesis that a financial barrier is the leading reason households remain unconnected in the areas studied. It also revealed various preferences in outreach, customer service, and communications methods that will be incorporated into the successive planning and design phase of an Implementation Plan for USAID to increase connections in Tanzania.

To supplement this research, the SRUC team also reviewed case studies of low cost connection programs around the world, examining utility, government, and donor-driven efforts in Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Laos, and India to increase connections, reduce system losses, and improve the quality and accessibility of electricity. These case studies were selected based on their applicability to TANESCO and the availability of information on the successful approaches and details of each program.

The SRUC team distilled leading practices from those case studies with an emphasis on technical, financial, marketing/communications, and community engagement strategies. These practices will be core considerations for the design and forthcoming Implementation Plan for USAID to increase connections in Tanzania.

House Wiring Technical Analysis

Key to the SRUC’s Low Cost Connection Assessment was a technical analysis of house wiring options with the ability to lower the initial cost faced by potential customers when connecting to TANESCO. This review included variations of ready boards and modifications of standard house wiring schemes. The team delivered an evaluation of six technical options as low-cost alternatives to conventional house wiring.

To accompany the different house-wiring options, the SRUC team also built a dynamic, Low Cost Connectivity Dashboard, based on cost data from discussions with customers. This dashboard provides a cost estimates of each viable wiring alternative and can be used as an aid in developing marketing material and designing the Implementation Plan for USAID to increase connections in Tanzania.

In the analysis, the Team defined each respective option and discussed its suitability in line with applicable Tanzanian wiring regulations, safety standards, and common practice, as well as any recognized challenges or stakeholder concerns associated with its implementation.

A TANESCO-supplied ready board for display at the TANESCO regional office
A TANESCO-supplied ready board for display at the TANESCO regional office.
A ready board installed by Tanzania’s Rural Energy Agency
A ready board installed by Tanzania’s Rural Energy Agency in August 2017

These images from the local Tanzanian market help to conceptualize variations of one of the primary low-cost options – ready boards. The final House Wiring Technical Analysis provides recommendations for implementing each respective low-cost wiring option.

Implementation Plan Design

The SRUC team will bring together all elements of research, outreach, consultations, and analysis to deliver a final report to USAID and TANESCO recommending an implementation program for increasing connections through an alternative low-cost house wiring solution. This report will provide an actionable framework for catalyzing connections in TANESCO target areas in ways that are viable for customers and sustainable for the utility company.

Last updated: April 11, 2018

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