Coming soon: An electric co-op in Maji, Ethiopia

The same co-ops that brought electricity to the American countryside are helping start member-owned utilities in developing countries

The first steps of forming a new electric cooperative have begun. This time, in Maji, a small town in Southwestern Ethiopia with 700 families. Surrounding the town are 22 kebeles, or small farming communities where about 4,800 families live. Each kebele is about an hour from each other. Electricity is scarce, available only to the very few in town who can afford generators.

With the help of electric cooperatives like Great River Energy and its member-owner cooperatives, Maji will soon begin forming an electric cooperative.

A volunteer lineman works in South Sudan to bring power to a small community.

Step one is raising awareness in the community and educating people about what an electric co-op is. The end goal is bringing electric service to Maji, much like has been done in communities in four continents through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) International Program, of which Great River Energy is a long-time supporter.

There are approximately 1 billion people without access to electricity, according to data from World Energy Outlook. Electric cooperatives draw on their more than 80 years of experience to establish new co-ops in developing countries, knowing that communities with electricity can prosper and grow.

The program has provided more than 160 million people in 45 countries with access to safe, affordable and reliable electricity. That’s nearly four times as many people as are served by U.S. electric cooperatives.

“Our experience over the last five decades shows the importance and direct benefits of reliable and affordable electricity in developing countries,” said Dan Waddle, NRECA International vice president.

Great River Energy has proudly provided financial support and supplies for electrification projects in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Several of Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives have provided equipment, deployed engineers and line technicians on electrification projects, and sent directors on missions to educate local residents about democratic ownership.

Electricity brings agricultural productivity, improved healthcare, new jobs, higher incomes and improved quality of life. More than 300 electric cooperatives support NRECA International’s work to bring first-time access to electricity, and train local partners to help utilities be sustainable in their own communities.