African CSOs call for ambitious targets and increased investment in energy access by the World Bank Group

22 July 2020

African Executive Directors
World Bank, Washington, DC. USA
Yaounde, July 22, 2020

Recommendations for Energy LEAP from African Civil Society

The African Coalition for Sustainable Energy and Access (ACSEA) and other like-minded African Civil Society Organizations working on energy and climate change in Africa sincerely welcome the World Bank Energy LEAP proposal on energy access for Africa. African CSOs have been calling for a World Bank Group strategy on energy access to ensure energy for all for many years.

Given the intensity of the COVID-19 crisis in Africa, speeding up progress on distributed renewable
energy, including clean cooking, is even more important to reduce the health impacts of air pollution from polluting fuels, as well as promoting renewable energy to generate jobs and secure livelihoods in the recovery from the crisis.

A strategic approach that includes ambitious targets for increasing energy access for millions of people and increasing the levels of investment of the WBG, compared to the last five years, is very necessary at this point. Such a clear strategy will be very welcome by the African CSOs especially if it focuses on off-grid and mini-grid renewable energy and the need to accelerate progress on clean cooking.

It is our desire to see that such a strategy is put out for broad-based consultations amongst the stakeholders, including civil society who know what energy consumers need. This would ensure that such an initiative would stand out and have more success than many other similar initiatives that never delivered on promises because of a lack of or insufficient participation of stakeholders.

We are available and ready to have further discussions with you on this initiative. While waiting for such an opportunity we would like to list some recommendations that should guide the development of the strategic document as follows:

Stakeholder participation and gender equality at all levels should be the cornerstone of the initiative.

● The majority of the population that this initiative should reach are generally hardly consulted or even informed about initiatives and programs that are intended to impact their lives. Arguably, this is one of the main reasons that has retarded or led to the failure of such initiatives in Africa before. To make a difference, the energy LEAP proposal should have stakeholder participation and gender equality as the cornerstone of the initiative.

● On gender equality, the LEAP energy proposal should make room for adequate women’s participation across all value chains, including enabling financing. Most of the time, the majority of the population affected by energy poverty are in rural communities with a lot of female headed households. Women-led enterprises who go the extra mile to service last mile communities are under-financed and usually not considered.

It needs to aim for substantially more new electricity connections by 2030 and earlier. The rate of electrification needs to be high.

● The LEAP targets and investments, including the WBG’s contribution, need to be very ambitious. The targets for electricity connections from off-grid and mini-grid renewable energy and clean cooking need to be very high to reach one out of every two people without electricity and 890 million people without clean cooking in Africa. Furthermore, clean cooking fuels would reduce indoor air pollution (currently the third largest killer in sub-Saharan Africa) and reduce the root cause of massive deforestation which exacerbates catastrophic climate change.

● Another area that is heavily neglected in energy targets and investments is the area of energizing health centers in rural communities. About 60% of health care centers in rural communities which are supposed to cater for the health needs of 95% of the members of the communities are totally off-grid and as such function skeletally. Of course, there are high mortality rates resulting from these inefficiencies.

● The focus of investments should be on African countries with the highest deficits in energy access in order to have the highest impact and value for money. In those countries, the priority should be on off-grid and mini-grid renewable energy in rural remote areas to increase energy access, reduce poverty and boost local economies. To this effect, significantly more public finance is needed for mini-grid and off-grid renewable energy, as well as for clean cooking, with a particular emphasis on grant-based finance. More financing and investments are needed for rural and last mile electrification where the electricity rate is still as low as 26% for some countries. Distributed renewable energy offers a cheaper and faster option to improve this.

● Local companies should be strengthened and mobilized to take up opportunities in this energizing process. There is a need to factor in adequate after service maintenance and repairs services. Furthermore, it will be important to factor in energy for productive uses especially in last mile communities, which will significantly contribute to the boosting of local economies. Ensure alignment with Paris Agreement climate goals and a clear commitment to renewable energy.

● The strategy should set out a clear link between energy access and climate change strategies e.g. zero carbon solutions, and prioritizing renewable energy generation from solar and wind, over polluting fuels including gas. All new electricity generation should come from renewable energy sources and this should have an adequate financial package.

● The strategy should highlight the role of public finance, smart subsidies and energy safety nets for offgrid and mini-grid renewable energy to bridge the affordability gap for the last mile that can’t be achieved by the private sector.

● There is a great need to scale up WBG staff capacity on energy access to support policy dialogue, donor coordination and the design and implementation of projects in African countries. This should include integrating off-grid and mini-grid renewable energy into national electrification strategies, and building expertise and government capacity as it is a relatively new area for many.

In conclusion, we would like to assure you of our willingness and availability to collaborate with you in terms of technical contribution and mobilization for the success of the LEAP initiative and ensure energy for all.

Yours sincerely
Augustine B Njamnshi
Coordinator, ACSEA

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