World Bank project aims to connect 300 million Africans to electricity by 2030

It is estimated that $30bn of public sector investment will be needed in order to carry out the ambitious project.



The World Bank Group, in partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB), is aiming to provide at least 300m people in Africa with access to electricity by 2030.

The Washington DC-based institution will work to connect 250m people to electricity through renewable energy systems, while the AfDB will support 50m people; but the project will require substantial investment.

It is estimated that $30bn of public sector investment will be needed in order to carry out the ambitious project. The International Development Association (IDA), a branch of the World Bank that provides low-income developing countries with funding, is set to provide $20bn for the project, with the remaining $10bn expected to come from other public money.

The World Bank is also hoping that the private sector will contribute to funding efforts. Furthermore, the Bank insists that African governments will need to put in place policies that attract private investment, and reform their utilities.

“Right now, 57% of utilities in Sub-Saharan Africa fail to cover even their operating cost, much less any kind of debt service, or capital investment – making them unattractive for private investors to supply electricity to. By implementing reforms that improve power utilities’ operational and financial performance, they can in turn become financially sound and can attract private investment,” a World Bank spokesperson told African Business.

The World Bank says that connecting 250m people to electricity would open private sector investment opportunities worth $9bn in distributed renewable energy (DRE) alone. Advocates say that DRE can be easily installed, is reliable and operates independently from national power grids, which makes it particularly useful in remote areas.

Africa’s electricity deficit

Currently 600m people in Africa lack access to electricity, about half of the continent’s 1.2bn population. This creates barriers to healthcare, education, digital inclusivity and job creation.

Access to electricity is paramount to any successful development effort, argues the World Bank.

“Electricity access is the bedrock of all development. It is a critical ingredient for economic growth and essential for job creation at scale. Our aspiration will only be realized with partnership and ambition. We will need policy action from governments, financing from multilateral development banks, and private sector investment to see this through,” said Ajay Banga, World Bank Group president.

However, climate campaigners from the Big Shift Campaign, who are organising protests outside the World Bank offices during the institution’s ongoing spring meetings, argue that there were no concrete plans for the next six years being presented. “The World Bank President mentioned financing as a key ingredient yet there was no roadmap as to how this will be tangibly achieved for Africa,” Dean Bebhe told African Business.  

Experts have questions about the initiative, such as how it will be implemented and funded, and how it will differ from existing initiatives.

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Luke Kilian