In the 1970s under the rule of the country’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, the Tunisian government laid out a strategy to strengthen rural development throughout the country. One of the three main pillars of this strategy was to increase the access to electricity for the rural population. At the beginning of the 1970s only six of every hundred rural households were connected to the grid or an alternative source of electricity. Through significant public investments supported by the World Bank and the African Development Bank, Tunisia was able to increase this rate to 90% only 25 years later.
Globally, more than one and a half billion people are still without access to electricity, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Today many national and international development efforts focus on rural electrification. To better understand the development benefits of these efforts, I aim to quantify the social returns of the Tunisian electrification campaign (in the areas of health, education, employment and others) in my research. With the support of TRI, I spent this summer in Tunisia, collaborating with statisticians at the National Institute of Statistics to obtain several data sets on infrastructure development and household surveys. I also took advantage of the opportunity to speak to some of the key stakeholders involved in the development program to understand the process of the campaign better. Currently, I am in the process of combining the data sets and analyzing them. Through an econometric model, I plan to identify the social benefits of the campaign in my master’s thesis.