Collaborative focus on skills and financing to speed up energy uptake in rural Africa

Lack of access to sustainable energy is one of the most pervasively debilitating aspects of poverty holding back development in rural Africa.   According to a Rocky Mountain Institute report, there is a glaring gap between the rush to supply Africa with electricity and the ability of consumers and small businesses to access and use that energy. 
“At Energy 4 Impact we support the RMI’s conclusions and agree that more focus on building skills and capacity, easing access to financing and identifying potential for new power supplies for small businesses and households is needed to build demand for rural electricity,” says Ben Good, CEO of Energy 4 Impact.  “In fact these three areas are at the core of our programmes.” 
Our experience in Tanzania, in some of Africa’s poorest communities, shows how the targeted, collaborative approach can increase electricity uptake.  The country’s Rural Energy Agency’s (REA) grid densification programme aims to stimulate economic development in newly electrified villages.  We work with the Tanzania Rural Energy Agency, Multiconsult, the Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania, and others to help drive up demand in these newly electrified villages. 
In the villages of Tanga and Pwani in south-eastern Tanzania, we’re providing a range of enterprise development services to local entrepreneurs, so they can identify and take on value adding activities and invest in income-generating equipment such as wood workshop tools, fish drying, oil pressing and milling machines, fridges, juice blenders and hair dryers. 
The affordability of appliances is a key gap highlighted by the RMI.  Through our relationships with financing organisations and suppliers, we are helping these businesses afford and secure equipment.  We work with financial institutions, investors and donors to help them build financing schemes which are viable for them and their clients.  There has been a sharp rise in the supply of electrical appliances, funded through affordable financing.
Where villages have been connected to the grid for the first time, we ran roadshows to create awareness of the commercial potential of electricity, collaborating with local energy entrepreneurs who urged other villagers to come along and demonstrated the use of electrical appliances.  Local authorities, appliance suppliers, community-based organisations and financiers also attended.
Under the Tanzania Community-Based Energy Education Programme for the World Bank, we are currently testing whether a community-based energy education programme can increase the number of connections and uptake of electricity, while ensuring cost-effectiveness and value for money for those investing in electricity supply.  We’re targeting households, institutions and enterprises who are connected through the Tanzania Rural Electrification Expansion Program (TREEP) in a selected number of districts, particularly those in regions with historically lower electrification rates. 
“Providing finance and capacity building to close the gap between supply and demand in newly-electrified communities is critical,” says Ben.  “Our collaborative and targeted community approach in Tanzania is boosting uptake of electricity for commercial use, making investments in electrification more viable, and improving livelihoods, as well as the range of services on offer in rural communities.”


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