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Results BriefsNovember 17, 2023

Scaling Up Energy Access for Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development in Western and Central Africa

Scaling Up Energy Access for Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development in Western and Central Africa

The Tambacounda high-voltage power station, Mouderi, Senegal.

Photo: Natalie Tchoumba, World Bank


  • Over 10.3 million beneficiaries have received new or improved electricity service from ongoing projects. An additional 35.6 million beneficiaries are expected by the time all active projects close.
  • Projects that closed in the last three years reached more than 12.4 million additional beneficiaries.
  • In total, these open and recently closed projects have reached nearly 22.8 million beneficiaries across 62 projects.
  • Over 7.1 million received new or improved electricity services in Nigeria alone.
  • More than 13.2 million people benefitted from improved electricity access and reliability in Senegal.

Political commitment, improved regulatory frameworks, and public and private financing are driving progress in energy access expansion across Western and Central Africa (AFW). Off-grid systems using solar power are increasingly providing energy services in the region. Moreover, regional cooperation through programs such as the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) is making it possible to supply energy to 14 AFW countries - benefiting 64 percent of the total AFW population. Nevertheless, a significant scale-up of current efforts will be needed to achieve universal energy access by 2030.


Energy Access Is a Development Issue

Achieving universal energy access is a global challenge, and in Sub-Saharan Africa it is an urgent priority. This is particularly the case in Western and Central Africa, where in 2020, only 52 percent of the population had access to electricity services - although this was a significant improvement from 34 percent in 2000. In AFW, 220 million people still lack electricity access, limiting their ability to operate businesses, generate income, and receive adequate health and education services. Key challenges for scaling up energy access in this region include: (i) a vast geography and low population density; (ii) high electricity costs; (iii) limited affordability; (iv) weak institutional capacity; and (v) political instability.


From Policy to Infrastructure: A Comprehensive Approach

The World Bank’s Climate Change Action Plan 2021-2025 acknowledges the need to expand energy access in a world where about 800 million people still lack electricity, and identifies the urgent need for a global transition to low-carbon energy that is resilient to climate change and extreme events. World Bank priorities in the sector include support to countries for power sector planning, energy subsidy reforms, and improving the operational and financial performance of utilities; and investing in projects to increase energy access, including through renewable energy and improved energy efficiency. Developing regional infrastructure networks - including energy infrastructure - is one of the World Bank’s priority areas of engagement for the AFW region. It helps countries in AFW position their energy sectors as engines of green, resilient, and inclusive development, by strengthening and reforming policy and institutional frameworks to serve short, medium, and longer-term goals in achieving universal access to energy. Interventions are based on least-cost options, blending grid expansion in more populated areas with off-grid solutions in remote areas where grid services are not economically viable. The World Bank leverages International Development Association (IDA) financing to unlock markets by creating an enabling environment for private capital mobilization.

Rather than a one-size fits all approach, a range of instruments are used, from Development Policy Financing (DPF), Program-for-Results Financing (PforR), and Investment Project Financing (IPF), to Technical Assistance (TA). Interventions are tailored to country and regional priorities and needs and supported in some cases by a Multiphase Programmatic Approach (MPA). These lending operations are further complemented by investments in projects under the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) and the Central Africa Power Pool (CAPP), which facilitate cross-border transmission to reduce costs across the region, allowing participating countries to benefit from lower average generation costs for grid-connected electricity, and making user tariffs affordable for poor consumers.


AFW comprises 40 projects worth a total of $8.67 billion.


Improving Resilience, Accelerating Development

The World Bank’s regional energy investments support the global climate mitigation agenda while helping client countries build the resilience of their infrastructure to shocks. The active energy sector portfolio in AFW comprises 40 projects worth a total of $8.67 billion. Among the projects under implementation, 22 contribute to the clean energy transition. These include projects specifically supporting: (i) the development of clean energy resources (e.g., solar energy in Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, and Niger as well as hydropower in Cameroon); (ii) rural electrification based on solar-powered mini grids and off-grid solutions (e.g., in Mali, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger); and (iii) the expansion, reinforcement, and modernization of power transmission and distribution networks, building the foundations for delivering increasing volumes of renewables while maintaining system reliability and stability.

Facilitating Cross-border Transmission

While West Africa has significant energy resources, distribution poses a key challenge: major sources of electricity supply are located far from the main centers of consumption. The West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) interconnects the power systems of the 14 mainland countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to help address this challenge.

In 2011, Burkina Faso had one existing interconnection, through which it received electricity from Côte d’Ivoire. However, in neighboring Ghana, electricity is produced relatively inexpensively from hydro and thermal plants, with potential to feed into cross-border electricity exchanges.

The first phase of the Inter-zonal Transmission Hub Project, undertaken by the WAPP with World Bank support, increased Ghana’s ability to export electricity, and reduced the cost of electricity in Burkina Faso by 23 percent, from $0.26 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2011 to $0.20/kWh in 2018.

Our region has immense electrical energy resources, which are capable of meeting demand for many years. But they are concentrated in a few countries that sometimes lack the means to develop them,” says Apollinaire Siengui Ki, Secretary General of WAPP. “Connectivity makes it possible to supply the amount of energy needed at a lower cost.”


Toward a Cleaner Energy Sector in Western and Central Africa 

In Western and Central Africa, rising oil prices have increased the liabilities of electricity utilities, and countries are facing an acute power supply crisis that threatens economic growth and raises tariffs for consumers. 

Activities under the new Regional Emergency Solar Power Intervention Project (RESPITE) are increasing electricity access to millions of existing and prospective consumers in Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo. This $311 million regional initiative, supported by the World Bank and approved in December 2022, aims to address the power supply crisis in AFW by rapidly increasing grid-connected renewable energy capacity, and strengthening regional integration in participating countries.  

RESPITE will help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by financing the installation and operation of approximately 106 megawatts (MW) of solar power with batteries and storage systems and a 41-MW expansion of hydroelectric power capacity. It will support electricity distribution and transmission interventions across the four countries, meeting the electricity needs of nearly 57,000 people. It also provides $20 million in support for the WAPP.

“This regional intervention is much needed in the short term. RESPITE is the beginning of a revolution in energy supply and access,” says President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone.


Scaling Up Energy Access for Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development in Western and Central Africa


An Effective Regional Network

The World Bank collaborates with national governments as well as bilateral and multilateral development partners to finance national and regional energy projects in AFW. The Gambia Electricity Restoration and Modernization Project, a $121.5 million project co-financed by the World Bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the European Union (EU) is one example. The Regional Gambia River Basin Development Organization Energy Project (OMVG Interconnection Project), which is a critical link in the interconnection of the WAPP network from Nigeria to Senegal, is a $711 million project co-financed by the World Bank, the EIB, the Islamic Development Bank (ISDB), the African Development Bank (AfDB), Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Banque Ouest Africaine de Développement (BOAD), and Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW).


More Power in the Pipeline

Eleven energy-sector projects with a total value of $2.32 billion are under preparation for AFW for 2024-2026. Key themes include: (i) pro-poor expansion of access in growing urban and rural areas; (ii) a continuing shift toward affordable low-carbon energy options; (iii) subsidized connections, for grid and off-grid households; (iv) building utilities’ financial and operational efficiency, (v) cross-sectoral collaboration in financing and delivery of electrification programs to support human capital development and increase labor productivity; and (vi) creating the enabling conditions for efficient and secure regional power markets. The experience of AFW’s energy sector also provides an example of how the World Bank continues evolving to better scale up regional and cross-border efforts. The draft Roadmap for evolving the World Bank’s mission, operations, and resources approaches identifies the need for new regional approaches for Global Public Goods (GPGs) like universal energy access, where the costs and benefits might be shared across borders - an approach that is already underway in AFW’s energy sector.