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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Achieving Rural Electrification for Sustainable Development: An analysis of the Self-Help Electrification Program in Ghana

Kristina Ostman

Achieving Rural Electrification for Sustainable Development: An analysis of the Self-Help Electrification Program in Ghana

Among the Sub-Saharan African countries, Ghana stands out as an exemplar when it comes to rural electrification. While improvements have been slow in other countries and the population without access to electricity is expected to increase in the coming decades, Ghana has, through targeted policies and programs, dramatically improved access to electricity in the rural areas of the country. Part of this success can be attributed to its Self-Help Electrification Program (SHEP) which allows communities to themselves contribute in order to get subsidised and accelerated connection to the electric grid. In order to gain connection communities are required to fulfil four conditions, including wiring their houses and procuring and erecting the low voltage transmission poles.

In this dissertation a systems approach has been taken to provide a critical analysis of the program, resulting in recommendations both for its optimisation within Ghana and its applicability elsewhere. Through in-depth interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and beneficiaries, a thorough examination could be achieved and information could be fed back to the implementers. As a result of the investigation, a better understanding can be presented of the program and its impacts to date.

Close to 2,000 rural communities have been connected to the grid under SHEP and, partly through the program’s focus on community engagement and contribution, outcomes have arguably been successful. The program could however be optimised and numerous weaknesses in implementation have been identified, foremost relating to politicisation, insufficient training and education, poor collaboration between the government and utility companies, and disregard for off-grid electricity generation. By linking these weaknesses to the identified strengths of the program, the study has resulted in recommendations about improvements of SHEP in Ghana as well as general recommendations relevant for any rural electrification project elsewhere.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.