Researchers who have been watching the Earth at night to see which areas are lit say they have determined that more than 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa will still be living in extreme poverty by 2030.
Focusing on data from electricity coverage to estimate global economic wellbeing, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) that conducts policy‑oriented research into problems that are too large or complex to be solved by a single country, say about 770 million people, most of them in Africa and Asia live without electricity.
Their analysis published in Nature Communications, used satellite data from unlit areas to map poverty and wealth levels in almost 50 countries.
The scientists say lack of reliable electricity negatively affects health and welfare, and impedes sustainable development.
“This nighttime radiance or nighttime lights can help map issues like economic growth, poverty, and inequality, especially in places where data are lacking,” they said.
“In developing countries, areas that are unlit at night generally indicate limited development, while brightly lit areas indicate more developed areas like capital cities where infrastructure is abundant.” By identifying the unlit areas, the researchers hope to target interventions for poverty alleviation and know where to focus on to improve energy access, explained study author Steffen Fritz.
They found that 19 percent of the planet’s total settlement footprint had no detectable artificial radiance. The majority of unlit settlement footprints were found in Africa (39 percent) and Asia (23 percent).
If only rural unlit infrastructure is considered, this number rises to 65 percent for Africa. In almost all countries, the results indicate a clear association between increasing percentages of unlit communities and decreasing economic wellbeing levels.