The Africa Minigrids Program is an effort that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) led to improve electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. Using solar mini-grids, the program will work with 21 African countries up until 2027 to solve the energy crisis through renewable energy.
Energy Access and Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), sub-Saharan African nations have some of the world’s lowest energy access rates. In fact, the agency notes that “Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the global population without access to electricity rose to 77% from 74% before the pandemic.” The most recently available IEA data states that less than half of the region’s population, some 48.5%, have access to electricity as of 2019.
That being said, the lack of access to electricity intertwines with poverty in the region. According to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2022, sub-Saharan Africa not only has the lowest electricity access rates but also holds the highest concentration of impoverished people.
Additionally, a 2018 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report says that policy solutions in 2018 did not “recognize the transformative potential of solar off-grid and mini-grid solutions to deliver clean energy access.” This is set to change with UNDP’s Africa Minigrids Program, which plans on using these methods to improve electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa.
How the Program Works
According to the Africa Minigrids Program’s website, the initiative will help improve electricity access across 21 sub-Saharan partner countries by “increasing the financial viability of, and promoting scaled-up investment in renewable energy minigrids in Africa, with a focus on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.” By doing this, the program would also impact socio-economic development in the region since industries such as agriculture, health care and education require stable and consistent electricity access to see successful outcomes.
The UNDP is not alone in affecting change in electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) financially supports the project with funding that will help the UNDP and its program partners, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and the African Development Bank (ADB), implement the program, starting with an initial phase of supporting 11 out of 21 partner countries.
According to the program brochure, the first phase began in 2022, with the subsequent two phases expected to begin in 2023. Combined, the 21 countries are home to “more than two-thirds of the total unelectrified population of Africa,” with a total combined population of 396 million individuals without electricity. The program estimates that more than 200,000 schools and clinics will gain access to electricity as a result of the program along with upward of 900,000 businesses.
Benefits of the Program
Without a doubt, the electricity that the Africa Minigrids Project provides will have a significant impact on the impoverished populations of the 21 AMP countries. According to the World Bank, improving access to electricity is “key to boosting economic activity and contributes to improving human capital, which, in turn, is an investment in a country’s potential.”
Electricity in the region would help power schools, medical facilities and businesses, allowing millions a chance to improve their lives and move one step closer to living a life free of poverty. The Africa Minigrids Program presents a transformative approach to improving electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa, one that will positively affect millions of people currently living in poverty.
– Mohammad Samhouri
Photo: Wikipedia Commons