UK to boost solar electricity in Africa with new initiative

24 Oct 2015, 12:00 am
Chibuike Oguh

Summary

Solar is a tremendous opportunity for African countries to leapfrog traditional carbon intense energy... - Richard Branson

Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel and Former UN Secretary General

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has launched an initiative to boost electricity in Africa by expanding the household solar market.

The Energy Africa campaign will drive a fundamental shift in the household solar market in sub-Saharan Africa, where currently around 2 out of 3 people do not have access to electricity, DFID said in a statement. Under the initiative, an initial £30 million ($46 million) will be earmarked to tackle rural energy poverty in Africa.

“It is shocking that around 2 out of 3 of the African population have no electricity in their homes,” Grant Shapps, the UK’s minister for DFID, said. “This not only holds back individuals, but entire nations. It prevents businesses from trading and holds back economic growth – indeed outages cost African countries 1-2% of their annual GDP.”

Energy Africa was launched in an event in London on Thursday with Nigeria’s vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, in attendance.

DFID said Energy Africa would take on the inefficient markets, policy barriers and under-investment, which means that Africans pay as much as 66 times more for their electricity than someone in the UK.

“Solar is a tremendous opportunity for African countries to leapfrog traditional carbon intense energy systems to a cost effective, clean energy future,” Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, said at the launch event.

DFID said more than 600 million people in Africa have no electricity and reaching them with traditional grid systems will be a lengthy effort. With Energy Africa, DFID hopes to accelerate the development of the emerging solar market in Africa.

“This campaign addresses one of the great injustices of the 21st Century,” Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel and Former UN Secretary General, who was one of the dignitaries at the event, said. “An injustice that robs millions of our fellow citizens of the dignity, opportunity and freedom that comes with access to modern energy,” he added.

In 2013, President Barack Obama launched a similar initiative – Power Africa – to spend $7 billion to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.


 


Chibuike Oguh is Financial Nigeria's analyst of frontier markets


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