Power Profile: Oliver Abbo

Oliver Abbo, NRECA International GIS specialist, Uganda

“Somehow, we managed to improvise,” said Oliver Abbo, remembering what it was like living without electricity when she was a child.

Oliver grew up in a village in the Tororo District, in Eastern Uganda. She remembers going to bed by 7 o’clock when the sun went down. If there was moonlight, people would stay out longer.

“Ironing was done with a charcoal iron box, and the women had to grind flour by hand using grinding stones,” said Oliver. “Households without electricity could not improve their lives. It limited us, and we had to adapt,” she added.

Today, Oliver works as a geospatial information system (GIS) specialist for NRECA International. Together with the team in the Kampala office, she works every day to help improve the lives of people in rural areas who live without power. This includes her home village, which still does not have access to electricity. Oliver joined the team in 2016, using her GIS expertise to collect and process data in NRECA International’s geospatial and engineering platform the team uses for electrification planning.

In Uganda, more than 34 million people –about 80 percent of its population, live without access to electricity. In the rural areas, only 10 percent of its disparate population have access to power. Realizing that reliable and affordable access to electricity is crucial to the country’s economic and social development, the government has an aggressive plan in place to rapidly increase electricity access in its rural areas. Under Uganda’s Rural Electrification Agency (REA) Master Plans project funded by the USAID/Power Africa program, the team recently completed developing master electrification plans for all 13 electricity service territories in the country. This will provide the government with a roadmap to achieve its electrification goals laid out in “Uganda Vision 2040,” to increase electricity access by 80 percent by 2040.

Oliver graduated from the Kyambogo University in Kampala, with a degree in civil and building engineering. She aspires to be a registered engineer, hopes to be a good leader and an inspiration to women who want to succeed in this field. The significance of her work, and how her contribution can help communities like the one she grew up in, doesn’t escape her.

“I am happy to be a part of this team because the work we are doing is changing lives and improving livelihoods,” said Oliver.

Oliver, fourth from the left, posing with a few of her colleagues at the NRECA International office in Uganda.

The work is far from done. Oliver and the team in Kampala will continue to support upcoming efforts to include: Helping the REA develop an off-grid electrification strategy for Uganda; designing a “productive use of energy” to support income growth through more effective use of electricity; and a program to help electric cooperatives in Uganda strengthen their operations.

Oliver is up for the challenge.

“Everyone works hand in hand irrespective of where you are from, the team spirit is strong, and we all work closely together,” said Oliver.

Click here to learn about our work in Uganda.