WASHINGTON, November 28, 2023 — A new World Bank program is set to exponentially accelerate sustainable and clean energy access and provide life-transforming opportunities for 100 million people in up to 20 countries across Eastern and Southern Africa over the next seven years.
In a region where only 48% of the overall population—and just 26% in rural areas—has access to electricity, the Accelerating Sustainable and Clean Energy Access Transformation (ASCENT) Program will be a game-changer. Lack of energy access hinders the region’s economic recovery, resilience, and faster progress toward poverty reduction. It also results in significant food spoilage owing to lack of refrigeration, particularly in countries already plagued with food insecurity, and plays a role in poor health outcomes given that less than half of all hospitals in the region have reliable electricity access.
“The lack of energy access is the most significant challenge to development progress in the region today. The ASCENT program is a game changer in efforts to address universal access to energy and the clean energy transition, bringing together global and local knowledge, with a menu-based approach for empowering countries to pursue their national energy-access goals while leveraging regional integration opportunities,” said Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank Vice President for Eastern and Southern Africa “By pooling our knowledge and resources from across the World Bank — (the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) — in collaboration with partners from the public and private sector, we can leverage the IDA financing envelope of $5 billion for an additional $10 billion that will unlock opportunities and transform millions of lives.”
The ASCENT program outcomes will include increased productivity, more and better job opportunities, access to information and technologies, improved health, reduced time spent on cooking chores, improved resilience and better services provided by electrified schools and health clinics. Women, who are often disproportionately burdened by the lack of energy access, will benefit the most. They will also be provided additional income-generating and employment opportunities to unleash their economic potential.
The ASCENT components will be organized into three pillars, the first of which focuses on the development of regional and national platforms to enable economies of scale and cost reduction strategies. “Through the regional platforms, countries will align regional and national planning processes, mobilize financing at regional scale, and aggregate climate benefits at regional level to mobilize climate/impact financing. The regional platforms will include the ASCENT Regional Acceleration Platform, a comprehensive knowledge and technical assistance facility implemented by Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the ASCENT Regional Energy Access Financing Platform, implemented by the Trade and Development Bank, supporting the region’s distributed renewable energy and clean cooking companies,” said Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director of Regional Integration for Africa and the Middle East.
The second pillar will contribute to expanding grid electrification through investment and technical assistance on grid densification and expansion; grid connections, reinforcement and upgrading; and variable renewable energy (VRE) integration investments. It will also strengthen energy utilities, including building capacity of management and monitoring systems, increasing digitization, revenue protection programs, and other improvements needed to deliver fast-paced electrification.
The third pillar will finance investments in scaling distributed renewables (DREs) and clean cooking to expand energy access for households, enterprises, farmers, schools, health clinics, and other institutions, including through financial intermediary financing.
The program will start in four countries (Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia and Tanzania) and will expand to up to 20 countries in the region over the next seven years. These four countries were selected as ASCENT champions, representative of the energy access stages and contexts found in the region, thereby providing both inspiration and lessons for countries facing similar conditions.
*The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 74 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.3 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has provided $458 billion to 114 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $29 billion over the last three years (FY19-FY21), with about 70 percent going to Africa. Learn more online: IDA.worldbank.org. #IDAworks