Fatima Zahera Hagou, a kindergarten teacher, remembers that only a generation ago, when the sun went down over the Moroccan countryside, her rural village of Dar Laain stopped and the locals slept for the night.
Today, Dar Laain, about 25 kilometers southwest of Marrakech, is booming with life after dark, thanks to the expansion of the power grid. Youth clubs, a communal bathhouse and a busy women’s farming community have helped residents.
“I can’t imagine life without electricity in a village,” Hagou said. “It brings hope to us.”
Given its importance to economic activity, quality of life and service delivery, energy is a cornerstone of the African Development Bank’s (https://www.AfDB.org/) development strategy for the continent through its Light Up and Power Africa (https://bit.ly/36te5zD) High-5 priority.
The Bank has a crucial role to play with other development finance institutions in funding electricity projects.
According to the institution’s Annual Development Effectiveness Review (ADER) 2020, published on November 19, bank operations helped to build 291 MW of new power capacity in 2019, of which 60 percent was renewable. The Bank also built or strengthened 435 km of power distribution lines and supplied new electricity connections to 468,000 individuals.
Araya Hizkias, the owner of a water bottling company in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, is one of those people. He used to rely on a diesel generator to keep his company running, which every month devoured his earnings.
The new power grid in the city was partially commissioned in November 2019 under the $38 million Juba Power Distribution System Rehabilitation and Expansion Project of the Bank, which aims to increase security and economic development in a city that is still recovering from war.
We no longer suffer random harm to our machines and things work more quickly. Hizkias said We are making more savings and expanding production.”
Given these positive strides, the continent’s access to electricity is still poor, at 45%. The Covid-19 pandemic can further limit the speed of expanding access to electricity for millions of non-connected Africans.
Expanding investment in renewable energy is a core element of the Bank’s work to fix energy shortages. A new solar project in Sudan and new hydropower projects in Liberia and Madagascar were recently approved by the Bank.
In Chad, the first phase of the 32 MW Djermaya solar project kicked off with a bank loan approved last year. A Partial Risk Guarantee was also covered by the loan, which is essential to unlocking investment in the Central African region, which has huge solar potential but is currently heavily dependent on polluting wood fuels.
The guarantee is an example of the Bank’s efforts to bridge the financing gap and leverage public and private sector investment to meet the continent’s energy demand. The International Energy Agency estimates that achieving reliable electricity supply in Africa would require a quadrupling of investments to around $120 billion annually through 2040 (http://bit.ly/37TlIfS).
Innovation and collaborations that allow players in the energy sector to move faster to ensure sustainable access to energy will be needed to achieve this even in remote or rural parts of Africa.
The decentralisation of energy networks is one solution. The African Development Bank Board in the Democratic Republic of Congo approved a $20 million loan last year to finance sustainable, mini-grid solutions in the off-grid cities of Isiro, Bumba and Genema.
Someday, the Democratic Republic of Congo and many other countries would be like Morocco, where the electricity grid now meets the majority of people, with some 40,000 new villages hooked up in the last two decades.
“My company has expanded because I had access to electricity. “Mohamed Dakni, a 32-year-old welder in the village of Douar Bou Azza near Marrakech, said I can now afford to work on my art and broaden my clientele.
I used to make small objects that were sold on the market for a cheap price. I will grow my company today, my imagination, and make a better living.