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World Bank, AfDB to light 300 Million Africans by 2030, Skeptics Doubt it Will Happen

By May 5, 2024No Comments
World Bank President Ajay Banga (c) Bloomberg

The World Bank has, in a bold initiative, set a goal to electrify 250 million people in Africa by 2030, with the African Development Bank contributing to the electrification of an additional 50 million, totaling a 300-million-person target.

The announcement, made by World Bank President Ajay Banga at the Spring Meetings in Washington, significantly expands on his earlier commitment to connect 100 million Africans to power with a $5 billion investment by the decade’s end.

This new venture will exclusively utilize renewable energy sources, including solar, hydro, and wind power. The World Bank is also committed to assisting countries dependent on fossil fuels in transitioning to cleaner energy production.

To achieve this ambitious target, the World Bank plans to increase its annual investment in the region’s energy sector from $3 billion to $6 billion. However, reaching 250 million people will require $30 billion in public funding, with the International Development Association providing a substantial portion of this amount. The initiative aims to attract private sector investment to further scale up the project.

Despite the enthusiasm, there are lingering questions about the execution and financing of this plan, especially considering the limited success of the World Bank’s previous Scaling Solar program, which aimed to foster solar energy expansion in Africa through public-private partnerships.

The scaling solar project had several limitations (c) Devex

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 7 seeks to ensure universal access to modern energy by 2030. Currently, nearly 600 million Africans, including half of sub-Saharan Africa’s population, lack electricity, leading to high costs and unreliable power supply. This situation poses significant challenges to healthcare, education, productivity, digital inclusion, and job creation.

The World Bank’s new energy pledge is part of its broader climate change agenda, which includes a commitment to allocate 45% of its annual financing for climate-related projects in the upcoming fiscal year, marking an increase from the previous 35% target. This aligns with the bank’s vision to eradicate poverty and ensure a sustainable planet.

World Bank President Ajay Banga emphasized that access to electricity is essential for development and should be considered a basic human right. He highlighted that electricity enables healthcare, education, and economic productivity. Without it, development stalls.

African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina echoed this sentiment, stating that growth, industrialization, and competitiveness are impossible without power. He announced plans for an Africa energy summit aimed at creating a comprehensive energy strategy for the continent.

African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina has taken steps to uplift the African continent from the shackles of poverty, but the task ahead remains daunting (c)

Banga outlined the necessity of government policies, financial support from development banks, and private sector investment to achieve the goal of electrifying Africa. He mentioned a significant investment opportunity in renewable energy, with the World Bank’s new guarantee platform facilitating easier access to funding.

The World Bank’s strategy includes supporting both off-grid and on-grid renewable energy solutions, offering financial and technical assistance, and working on policy and regulatory improvements. For remote areas, the focus will be on mini-grids and solar home systems, while grid-connected areas will see efforts to integrate more renewable sources and regional power projects.

Addressing the challenges faced by utilities, the World Bank aims to improve financial viability through better tariff collection and the creation of sustainable tariffs. Technological advancements like geospatial mapping and more affordable solar technology are expected to reduce costs and enhance reliability.

However, climate activists have expressed concerns about the lack of detailed plans and clear financing strategies to realize these ambitious goals for Africa’s energy future.

Dean Bhekumuzi Bhebhe of Power Shift Africa has expressed guarded optimism that this project will yield the expected results (c)

Dean Bhekumuzi Bhebhe of Power Shift Africa regards Ajay Banga’s statement on the energy crisis as a human right as hopeful, potentially paving the way for the World Bank to integrate human rights into its operations in the Global South.

Conversely, Gyude Moore, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and former Liberian Public Works Minister, acknowledges the World Bank’s efforts to electrify Africa but advocates for including fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, in the energy strategy to meet African leaders’ preferences.

Gyude Moore, Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development, former Liberian Public Works Minister already sees the future in roses (c) YouTube

Moore points out that renewable energy sources and storage solutions are not yet economically viable in Africa. He argues that the intermittent nature of renewable energy poses challenges for industries that rely on consistently high temperatures, such as metal processing from ores. Moore cautions that the World Bank’s refusal to fund fossil fuels contradicts the stated desires and developmental trajectory of African governments.

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