Energy Poverty in the Arab World: The Case of Yemen

While much of the emphasis of the literature on energy poverty is on the prevalence of the phenomenon in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, little has been written about energy poverty in the Arab world.  Traditionally having being seen as one of the world’s most energy rich regions, the Arab world has in recent years often been overlooked as a region which suffers severely from energy poverty itself. In 2002, about 65 million people in the Arab world had no access to electricity, and an additional 60 million were severely undersupplied in both urban and rural areas. In terms of cooking and heating, almost one-fifth of the Arab population rely on non-commercial fuels like wood, dung, and agricultural residues particularly in Comoros, Djibouti, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia but also in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Syria. This study by Laura El-Katiri and Bassam Fattouh fills a gap in the existing literature by looking at the case of prevailing energy poverty in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world. The Yemeni case is particularly interesting because of the country’s status as a net energy exporter. Large segments of the Yemeni population both in rural and urban areas rely heavily on traditional fuels such as firewood and dung while electrification rates in Yemen is relatively low where only 54% of Yemeni households have access to electricity. Decades of underinvestment and lack of necessary infrastructure, and Yemen’s prevailing poverty problem have all contributed to this status, as has the country’s fractured political system.

By: Bassam Fattouh , Laura El-Katiri

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