Over 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa currently lack reliable and affordable access to energy and the achievement of SDG 7 by 2030 – Universal Access to Energy – seems currently out of reach. Rural electrification in developing countries faces numerous and complex challenges on various levels. As a consequence, most mini- or microgrids (island solutions that are detached from the main electrical grid) face sustainability issues. Studying these systems by applying an interdisciplinary approach that considers the energy systems in the context of the local and national environment and by integrating technical, legal, social and financial perspectives reveals challenges, opportunities and strategic implications on various levels. This lecture will discuss these challenges based on the comprehensive research findings generated by the research projects ‘RISE – Renewable, Innovative and Scalable Electrification‘ and, ‘Mumuni Singani’. The presentation will discuss major challenges and opportunities for rural electrification in Africa incorporating three perspectives: local communities, the private sector as well as the policy-level and focusses on the question of what is needed to develop sustainable decentralised renewable energy solutions for the region.