COMESA, World Bank launch US$5bn energy programme

Staff Writer

COMESA and the World Bank have launched a US$5 billion energy programme to accelerate energy access efforts in the eastern and southern African region, with a target delivery of new electricity connections for 100 million people.

The programme, dubbed the Accelerating Sustainable and Clean Energy Access Transformation (ASCENT) seeks to increase access to sustainable and clean energy in eastern and southern African countries.

Access to energy includes on-grid and off-grid electricity solutions and clean cooking.

The main beneficiaries of the ASCENT program are people, including women, in the eastern and southern Africa region who will gain access to a sustainable supply of electricity and clean cooking, along with the associated benefits that accrue from having energy access.

ASCENT will leverage the proposed International Development Association envelope of US$5 billion to signal the World Bank’s commitment to achieving SDG7 in the Eastern and Southern Africa region and mobilise an additional US$10 billion from development partners, governments, national utilities, private-sector and commercial funders, carbon markets, climate and other impact-oriented financiers, and philanthropic and other partners.

COMESA secretary general, Chileshe Kapwepwe, highlighted that millions of Africans still depend on traditional energy sources such as biomass, kerosene and diesel for cooking, lighting and heating.

Kapwepwe said these energy sources are not only inefficient but also harmful to health and the environment.

“In particular, the heavy dependance on biomass for cooking contributes to deforestation, soil erosion and biodiversity loss. Additionally, it aggravates climate change by discharging greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” she said at the launch.

“I am glad to note that the ASCENT Project includes clean cooking solutions as one of its intervention areas. These solutions are critical to advancing environmental sustainability and a healthy living environment, especially for women who bear the brunt of energy poverty.”

According to the African Development Bank, lack of clean energy is the reason why about 300,000 women die every year trying to cook food.

World Bank Director of Regional Integration Africa and Middle East and North Africa Boutheina Guermazi said ensuring access to reliable and affordable energy for all is a key element of the World Bank Regional Integration Strategy for Africa.

“It is essential to strengthen regional integration, giving boost to trade in goods and services, allowing digital transformation, attracting investments, and allowing faster flow of knowledge and innovations,” she said.

The Multiphase Programmatic Approach is International Development Association financed and anticipates that up to 20 countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa region will participate in ASCENT.

International Development Association-eligible countries can be financed from the US$5 billion ASCENT envelope.  In addition, IBRD countries with energy access deficits (Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, and South Africa) may participate in the Program through IBRD borrowing, and to access climate finance, carbon financing platforms and the private-sector dialogue.

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