The African continent needs to fully adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to realize its full potential. While SDG 7 specifically addresses affordable and clean energy and ensuring access to reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, a number of other SDGs are underpinned by the central role that access to energy plays in achieving them, most notably education, health, food security and the eradication of extreme poverty.
Merely achieving access to energy is not enough. From a financial and environmental perspective, a sustainable plan would ensure that access to affordable and clean energy and the benefits that follow are outlived. This is best achieved through cooperation with private sector to ensure a profit element that incentivizes the private sector to effectively become an implementing partner.
The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), through its innovative funding approach leverages and incentivizes private sector investments in various off-grid solutions, demonstrating the possibility of delivering clean energy solutions to rural areas. It also gives me great pleasure to be able to say that AECF was one of the fundamental catalysts that supported the emergence, and subsequent expansion, of off-grid solutions delivered by businesses such as M-Kopa, Mobisol, Off-grid Electric, Fenix International and others. Thanks to, what I’d refer to as a paradigm shift, the wider business community now understands, in a much better way, the modus operandi in which it can successfully and profitably provide energy solutions to rural communities that are not connected to the grid. AECF investments have, in effect, created a whole new environmentally sustainable industry that works to the benefit of historically underserved and marginalized communities.
Therefore, it should be seen as a natural next step for AECF to play the same transformative function beyond East Africa with the launch of a US$ 10 million investment fund in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Sierra Leone. Given our experience in using AECF funding to leverage private sector investments it is expected that the total investment size in the nascent solar energy space in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone will be in the region of US$ 40 million over the next 4 - 5 years. This is a first step, and a solid foundation, that promise a replication of the transformative success carried by the private sector in East Africa over the past 5 years.
Blog is written by Stawicki Boleslaw, Program Manager, AGRA. The REACT HS window is funded by UK aid from the UK government.