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Results BriefsNovember 21, 2023

Transforming Lives Through Energy Access in Eastern and Southern Africa


A homestead in Kanzenze, Bugesera District, Rwanda accessing electricity through a tabletsized solar panel, placed on the roof; a member of the homestead charging his phone using solar power. Photo: World Bank


  • 25 million people in AFE with new or improved electricity access from FY18 to FY23.
  • Between 2016 and 2023, Uganda saw an increase in electricity access for 8.8 million individuals.
  • 6 million people gained access to electricity in Tanzania across two IDA cycles since 2020.
  • 1.7 million people benefiting from ProEnergia project in Mozambique since 2019.
  • Since 2016, new on-grid electricity services have been provided to almost 4.7 million people in Ethiopia.
  • Since 2016, 1.2 million people have gained access to off-grid solar electricity in Rwanda.
  • 173,000 new grid connections in Malawi since 2020.


The Eastern and Southern Africa (AFE) region has vast untapped renewable energy resources; however, a large number of people, communities, and public facilities do not have access to electricity, and clean cooking solutions, imposing limits on education, gender equity, economic growth, and development. The World Bank’s energy strategy in the region expands access to electricity via grid or off-grid solutions, following least-cost electrification pathways adapted to country contexts. It also mobilizes private sector investment for on-grid clean energy generation and for distributed renewable energy technologies. On clean cooking, the Bank is capitalizing on the lessons learned from the off-grid solar sector to stimulate market forces to deliver results. The Bank supports governments in building capacity, improving the regulatory and financial enabling environment, enhancing the performance of national utilities, and with investments aimed to increase energy access levels as well as the reliability and affordability of electricity supply and create strong pipeline of clean cooking solutions. Within this framework, the World Bank’s strategy in the AFE region aims to unlock private sector investments and engage public, private and multilateral partners with the ultimate goal of achieving universal energy access by 2030.


Untapped Potential

Eastern Africa is a region with vast untapped energy resources, including hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar power, which could be harnessed to support economic growth and development. However, the region faces significant challenges in attracting investment - including political instability, weak governance, inadequate regulatory frameworks, and insufficient financing. The development of energy infrastructure requires a long-term vision and strategic planning, involving stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as local communities and civil society organizations.

In 2021, only 48 percent of the total population in AFE countries had access to electricity services, with rural areas experiencing the lowest penetration at just 33 percent. In low-income countries such as Burundi, Malawi, and Democratic Republic of Congo, less than 21 percent of people have access to electricity.

Moreover, the low-carbon energy transition will trigger a substantial demand for resources across Africa, with the Sub-Saharan region requiring an estimated 3 billion tons of minerals and metals by 2050 to support the deployment of solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Diversifying investments in renewable energy will be crucial for the low-carbon transition. Historically, most renewable energy investments in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have come from the public sector, in contrast with the global share of publicly funded renewable energy investments, which stands at just 14 percent.


An Ambitious Energy Access Target

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 calls for “affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all” by 2030; achieving universal electricity access by 2030 is a World Bank priority for the AFE region. To steer the path towards SDG7, the Bank has set an intermediate target of doubling the pace of access expansion by scaling up successful country-based access programs, unlocking private sector involvement, and leveraging distributed renewable energy between now and 2026. This initiative aligns with broader goals related to climate action, food security, and human capital development.

A strategic framework has been developed for expanding energy access with the International Development Association’s (IDA) IDA20 and IDA21 replenishments in the AFE region to scale up grid and off-grid electricity connections in line with the region’s objective of accelerating the pace of electrification pace. The approach is based on mobilizing funding, capacity, and partnerships, including tapping into private sector capital, by (i) scaling up grid, off-grid, mini-grid, and clean cooking access via a large horizontal “Accelerating Sustainable and Clean Energy Access Transformation in Eastern and Southern Africa” Multi-Phase Approach (ASCENT MPA), with delivery planned for FY24; (ii) implementing reforms and investments aimed at ensuring reliability, affordability and sustainability of electricity supply over the medium term, (iii) strengthening implementation capacity through Electrifying Africa Programmatic Advisory Services and Analytics (PASA) and (iv) leveraging World Bank-wide collaboration to foster private sector engagement via the Distributed Access with Renewable Energy Scale Up (DARES) Platform.

The Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) has played a key role in advancing energy access in Eastern and Southern Africa, and will support the achievement of this agenda . ESMAP, a partnership between the World Bank and more than 20 development partners to help low and middle-income countries reduce poverty and boost growth through sustainable energy solutions, supports the region through two critical workstreams. First, through its own-managed work, ESMAP advances innovative approaches regarding technology use, business models, financial instruments, subsidy schemes, and more, and facilitates knowledge dissemination within the World Bank and beyond. Second, ESMAP provides key technical support to inform lending operations via Bank-Executed Trust Funds on innovative technology streams such as mini grids and off-grid solutions, and on cross-cutting topics that include electrification of public facilities, productive uses of electricity, and gender.

Through this multi-pronged approach, ESMAP has been able to respond quickly and flexibly to the evolving needs and priorities of client countries and technical teams in Eastern and Southern Africa. To increase the pace of electrification in Eastern and Southern Africa, ESMAP will support the ASCENT MPA and the DARES platform by advancing innovative approaches through its own-managed work. It will coordinate the ASCENT MPA and the DARES platform through the Electrifying Africa PASA, which will be located within ESMAP with the goal of providing complementary technical assistance platform to support the implementation of the World Bank’s enhanced energy access agenda. While the focus of Electrifying Africa is on electrification, the facility will also actively explore synergies with clean cooking.

25 million people

have been provided with new or improved access to electricity through projects, policy support, and technical assistance.


Harnessing Expertise and Resources to Power a Region

From FY 2018 to 2023, the World Bank provided new or improved access to electricity to 25 million people in AFE through lending projects, policy support, and technical assistance. With World Bank support, countries in the AFE region have achieved success in improving the connectivity of communities, public institutions, and businesses to the electric grid, or to off-grid and mini-grid solutions. The Bank has also enhanced and diversified livelihoods in rural areas through productive uses of electricity, including via appliances such as solar water pumps, solar mills, and more. Energy access results have been achieved through the support of ESMAP, which provided grants, technical assistance and embedded experts in lending operations brought about by the regional teams.

Uganda's Energy for Rural Transformation Project (ERT) had directly benefited almost 8.8 million people by March 2023, through grid distribution extension and intensification activities, and support for the installation of solar energy packages in health centers and water supply schemes. The lessons learned from Uganda ERT have been integrated into the Electricity Access Scale-up Project (EASP), currently under implementation. EASP aims to provide electricity to 5.7 million people – including more than half a million refugees - and 700 public institutions via both grid and off-grid solutions. The Uganda EASP project also benefits from $10 million from the Clean Cooking Fund (CCF) managed by ESMAP, and targets clean cooking solutions for about 1.7 million people and 600 public institutions. Building on experience from ERT, Uganda EASP is piloting innovative business models to engage the private sector in providing energy as a service to public institutions – including schools and health centers – across Uganda, to promote sustainability and reliability of electricity supply while securing the provision of enhanced healthcare and schooling services.

The Malawi Electricity Access Project, launched in 2020 with $150 million in IDA financing, is aimed at increasing access to electricity, eventually bringing 173,000 new users onto the grid through grid electrification, an off-grid market development fund that aims at providing 200,000 people access to electricity by off-grid connections, and technical assistance and capacity building.

In Burundi, the Bank is supporting the Solar Energy in Local Communities Project (SOLEIL), launched in 2020 with a $100 million IDA grant. The project will almost double the rate of electricity access in the country, with over 91,000 families, 4,000 small businesses, 500 schools, and 400 health centers gaining access to electricity through mini-grids and standalone solar systems that will provide about 17 Megawatts (MW) of renewable generation capacity. Another 400 schools and 300,000 households will gain access to clean and efficient cookstoves. The project is also providing training on women's employment and entrepreneurship, and strengthening regulations and policies to attract private sector participation in the provision of off-grid energy services.

In 2019, the World Bank approved an $82 million grant to increase electricity access in five of the poorest provinces of Mozambique - Niassa, Nampula, Zambezia, Cabo Delgado, and Sofala. The project is also supported through a $66 million Multi-Donor Trust Fund mechanism administered by the World Bank. This financing supports the implementation of the government of Mozambique’s Energy for All Project, ProEnergia, which has already benefited over 1.7 million and connected 143 schools, health centers, and administrative buildings to the grid. Under the project, the Bank is financing the design and construction of infrastructure required to electrify households and businesses in peri-urban and rural areas, including in displacement settings; over 250,000 households in 500 settlements in 20 districts across the country have been identified for electrification.

The World Bank

The $625 million Ethiopia Electrification Program (ELEAP) is aimed at increasing access to electricity and enhancing institutional capacity for planning and implementing the government’s electrification program. Since 2018, ELEAP has provided on-grid electricity services to almost 4.7 million people through nearly a million connections. It has also made significant progress toward achieving its institutional objectives. The Program supports the government of Ethiopia’s National Electrification Program, which takes a coordinated approach combining both grid and off-grid solutions, with a focus on last-mile service delivery to consumers. The project has already exceeded its 2026 target; as a result it has received additional financing to increase its scope. The experience from ELEAP informed the Access to Distributed Electricity and Lighting in Ethiopia Project (ADELE), approved in 2021. ADELE will provide new or improved electricity services to about 5 million people via grid and off-grid solutions, as well as to 1,900 public institutions mini grid and off-grid electricity solutions.

The World Bank also supports a range of projects in the areas of energy sector transformation and renewables. In Madagascar, the Least-Cost Electricity Access Development Project (LEAD) has financed cost-effective investments in grid extension and densification using state-of-the-art planning tools and low-cost technologies to maximize the number of new connections per dollar spent. LEAD is aimed at creating one of the largest market development funds in Sub-Saharan Africa to engage private sector companies and financial institutions in boosting the market for solar off-grid technology. By December 2022, the project had succeeded in bringing electricity to over 500,000 people, with an ultimate target of 1.7 million people, 10,000 enterprises, and 750 health centers. An even more ambitious operation, the $400 million Digital and Energy Connectivity for Inclusion in Madagascar Project (DECIM) will help double energy access from 33.7 percent to 67 percent, and add an additional 3.4 million internet users to promote socio-economic inclusion. At least 10 million people including 2,000,000 households and more than 150 villages will gain access to electricity, while 2,000 health centers and schools will be connected to renewable energy and digital services.

The Energy Access and Quality Improvement Project (EAQIP) for Rwanda will improve access to modern energy for households, enterprises, and public institutions and enhance the efficiency of electricity services in the Republic of Rwanda. The project has four components, one of which provides financing to make access to off-grid electricity affordable at all income levels and connect at least 150,000 households, and establishes a clean cooking Results-Based Financing window to subsidize purchases of clean and efficient cooking solutions by eligible households. By May 2023 the project had disseminated clean cooking solutions to 43,833 people. In addition, the Rwanda Renewable Energy Fund Project has provided 1,223,000 people with access to off-grid solar electricity and provided access to electricity to 2,203 enterprises. 


Electrification Transforms Lives in Rural Tanzania

The Tanzania Rural Electrification Expansion Program (TREEP) has helped Tanzania achieve one of the fastest access expansion electrification rates in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade. TREEP has also created employment and business opportunities for women, and improved outcomes for students in remote parts of the country.

Approved in 2016, TREEP is financed jointly by the government of Tanzania, IDA, and the World Bank’s Scaling up Renewable Energy Program in Low Income Countries of the Strategic Climate Fund, and implemented by the Rural Energy Agency and the Ministry of Energy.

TREEP is designed as a Program for Results (P4R), supporting the government’s National Rural Electrification Program by innovatively linking the disbursement of funds directly to the delivery of results, which include expanding rural access to electricity and clean cooking; increasing the supply of renewable electricity in rural areas; and strengthening the capacity of sector institutions.

Now in its seventh year of implementation, TREEP has provided 6 million people with access to electricity and 980,000 with clean cooking solutions; as a result of these achievements, TREEP has received additional financing to scale up its ambitions and reach even more beneficiaries. TREEP also had a vital role in improving human capital development in the country by providing new electricity connections for more than 1,600 healthcare facilities, close to 6,500 education facilities and over 16,000 business enterprises.

One beneficiary of the project is the Qang’dend Secondary School, in Mang’ola ward in remote Karatu district. “Our performance in the national exams has gradually improved every year over the past three years since we got electricity,” says Yonas Joseph, who teaches biology and geography at the school. “We have our own printer and photocopier, and our teachers have their laptops. We also have access to water, which is pumped using electricity. The motivation is high among both the students and teachers.”


Note: Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa are excluded from the graph given access to electricity is almost 100% in these countries. 



Note: Information as of FY 2023 (June 30, 2023)



Note: Information as of FY 2023 (June 30, 2023)



A Powerful Collaborative Platform

The World Bank’s DARES platform was launched at the COP27 in November 2022. It leverages collaboration across the World Bank (AFE and AFW), IFC and MIGA, the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) and other development partners and stakeholders to significantly accelerate distributed renewable access in SSA through private sector engagement. It will accelerate the pace of access expansion through distributed renewables in SSA between now and 2026 while supporting climate, food security and human capital goals. DARES accelerates the pace of distributed renewable energy deployment by capitalizing and assisting qualified distributed renewable companies to grow exponentially; attracting larger companies to the energy access market; mobilizing public and private sector investments; helping governments set up enabling frameworks; and streamlining processes and applying digital tools to reduce transaction costs.


Investing in Innovative Solutions for Communities

While progress has been made through the programs and projects described, the challenges remain vast. At the current rate of electrification, almost 660 million people, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, will still lack energy access in 2030. Universal energy access will need the electrification pace in the region to triple, which in turn requires the deployment of all technology solutions – grid, mini grids and off-grid systems – to intervene holistically. One of the ways the World Bank is addressing the shortfall is through support for innovative decentralized renewable energy solutions. About half of all new connections will require distributed renewable energy solutions; by being modular, swift to install and with potential to attract the private sector, distributed solutions like mini grids and stand-alone solar systems will play a critical role for the region achieving universal electricity access by 2030. With the support of ESMAP the Bank has committed more than $1.4 billion in IDA funding supplemented by investments from trust funds to mini grids over the next seven years, through 37 projects in 31 countries. The Bank is supporting the efforts of governments and the private sector in deploying 29,400 planned mini grid projects, connecting more than 35 million people at an investment cost of $9 billion, including 3,100 mini grids financed directly by World Bank projects through 2029. More than 99 percent of these mini grids will be powered by solar, and 30 percent of them will be in Africa.

Developing countries such as those in East Africa make a relatively small contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. However, as they develop, they do have a role to play in climate change mitigation. The World Bank’s Country Climate and Development Reports (CCDRs) are core diagnostic reports that integrate climate change and development considerations, helping AFE countries prioritize the most impactful actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and boost adaptation, while delivering on broader development goals. CCDR’s for the East Africa region have been published for Angola, Malawi, Rwanda, and South Africa, with other countries soon to follow. Angola's CCDR, for example, recommends that to ensure climate-resilient energy, the country should consider adopting advanced power system tools for cost-effective supply security, expanding grids to extend clean energy access, boosting private sector involvement in solar and wind power, and assessing green hydrogen potential. Rwanda’s CCDR suggests that the country shift away from using peat for generating electricity and increasing the utilization of lake methane.

Access to energy – particularly through renewable energy sources – plays a crucial role in adaptation and resilience. It improves the functionality of critical emergency services, such as hospitals and shelters, including during climate-adverse events. Electricity promotes climate-resilient agriculture via solar irrigation systems, refrigeration, and food processing facilities; it is also key to providing clean and safe drinking water, and for the electrification of transportation and the construction of climate-resilient infrastructure. Finally, electricity access and the provision of broadband connections to school, libraries and other public facilities is critical for building climate resilience by increasing knowledge about climate change, sustainable practices, and disaster preparedness and monitoring. Clean energy can also build climate resilience and support sustainable development via reducing emissions from forest degradation, protecting health, supporting livelihoods, and empowering women while also contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.