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Energy Access in Eastern and Southern Africa


By 2030, the World Bank Group will work to connect 250 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa to electricity through distributed renewable energy systems or the distribution grid. In Eastern and Southern Africa, the target is 150 million people, which will be financed through the Accelerating Sustainable and Clean Energy Access Transformation (ASCENT) Program (100 million), and through existing financing (50 million).

Today, 365 million people are without electricity access in the region and 558 million people without clean cooking access. Eastern and Southern Africa accounts for more than half of the world’s unelectrified population (675 million) and nearly a quarter of the global population without access to clean cooking (2.4 billion). Accelerating energy access progress in the region is essential not only to help unlock its potential and deliver on its development goals, but also to help the world achieve SDG7 (and other SDG goals) and address global challenges including climate change, resilience, and fragility.

Accelerating Universal Electricity Access: Lessons from Rwanda

In just 15 years, Rwanda has increased its electricity access to 75% from 6% in 2009.

One Electricity Connection at a Time in Tanzania

The Tanzania Rural Electrification Expansion Program (TREEP) has helped Tanzania achieve one of the fastest access expansion rates in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade.

Tapping Solar Energy to Expand in Somalia

Somalia's electrification rate of 35.3% is lower than regional averages. The Somali Business Catalytic Fund (SBCF) boosted solar energy investment, creating around 2,200 jobs.

The pace of electrification in the region needs to triple to achieve universal electricity access by 2030. Otherwise, there will still be more than 300 million people without electricity access in the Eastern and Southern Africa region by 2030, just marginally fewer than there are today.

Closing the energy access gap requires concerted efforts to increase grid extension and densification, alongside scaling up distributed renewable energy (DRE) systems that can efficiently deliver electricity to areas outside the limit of a national grid. Based on geospatial modelling, DRE is the fastest and most effective mechanism to accelerate clean electricity access for more than half of unelectrified population in the region. Technology developments resulting in falling costs of solar energy and battery storage and increased energy efficiency have made modular DRE an increasingly attractive complement to centralized grid systems.

Rwanda, Kenya, and Ethiopia are among the world’s fastest electrifying countries, leading the way in taking integrated approaches that combine grid with distributed renewable energy (DRE) technologies. They are host to innovations in planning, in business models, and in financing that have revolutionized energy access provision.

The Somali Business Catalytic Fund (SBCF) strengthened the crowding in of private capital into the financing of solar energy solutions in Somalia. SBCF enabled the creation of at least 2,200 new jobs in Somalia, and is helping the country increase its electrification rate in hard to reach areas.

"The lack of energy access is one of the most significant challenges 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."
 Victoria Kwakwa
Victoria Kwakwa
Vice President, Eastern and Southern Africa Region

Achieving universal electricity access by 2030 is the World Bank’s priority for the AFE region.

The depth of the challenge requires faster and coordinated action on an exponential scale, which is why we have launched the Accelerating Sustainable and Clean Energy Access Transformation (ASCENT) Program, a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar program that will provide a platform for governments, development partners, and private sector to work together more effectively.  

ASCENT is expected to provide life-transforming opportunities for 100 million people across 20 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, placing the region on the path to universal energy access. It will align the comparative advantage of all parts of the World Bank (IDA, IFC, MIGA) and build on the proposed IDA funding envelope of $5 billion to leverage an additional $10 billion from public and private financing through strategic partnerships. ASCENT’s programmatic approach will allow the World Bank to dedicate significant resources over a longer time horizon (seven years) and to provide a platform across both national and regional levels that will offer opportunities for collaboration with development partners and a focus on unlocking private capital. It is an example of how our institutions are pushing a paradigm shift towards more ambitious initiatives that can be replicated and scaled.

The ASCENT program is part of a series of scaled up initiatives that are supporting countries in Eastern and Southern Africa to accelerate their energy access. This includes the Distributed Access through Renewable Energy Scale-Up Platform (DARES), which is leveraging World Bank, MIGA, and IFC expertise to develop innovative financial and de-risking instruments that are helping governments and the private sector to expand DRE investment. It also includes Electrifying Africa, a large, multi-year programmatic technical assistance facility funded by the World Bank Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) to assist countries to help them address the key challenges that are slowing progress on clean energy access by collecting and disseminating data, sharing knowledge, providing targeted technical assistance and capacity building, and through convening and collaboration.  

ASCENT’s focus is on delivering the downstream part of energy access, notably grid and DRE connections and access to clean cooking technologies and fuels – reliable, sustainable and affordable access also requires investments in generation and transmission. In parallel, the Bank is developing the Regional Energy Transmission, Trade, and Decarbonization (RETRADE) platform to address the challenges of regional energy integration to achieve energy security, affordability, and access.

Energy must stop being the binding constraint and become an engine of green, resilient and inclusive development that can unlock job creation, ensure food security and climate resilience, enable a digital transformation, and contribute to delivering critical education and health services.

The World Bank invites all stakeholders to join this fight against energy poverty because together, we can achieve universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services in Eastern and Southern Africa by 2030.

Energy Sector

Energy is at the heart of development. Energy makes possible the investments, innovations, and new industries that are the engines of jobs, inclusive growth, and shared prosperity for entire economies.

Energy-related Projects

World Bank's projects focused on energy transmission, distribution and renewables in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Documents & Reports on Energy

Learn more about the challenges and possible solutions to energy distribution and development in Eastern and Southern Africa from the world Bank's research and publications.