World Bank sets aside $30m for rural electricity

THE World Bank has set aside up to US$30 million to enhance access to electricity in rural and peri-urban communities to boost economic activity in the areas.
Both World Bank country manager Ina Ruthenberg and senior energy specialist Joseph Kapika confirmed in an interview on Tuesday that the programme that is currently being designed will involve the enhancement of power distribution network by strengthening Zesco’s capacity and piloting of mini-grids.
Ms Ruthenberg said the programme that will be similar to World Bank’s Access to Electricity for All programme, which was aimed at enhancing access to electricity to households in peri-urban areas, is key in helping address the low levels of access to electricity by rural communities.
in 2011, the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) provided a loan facility worth US$33 million loan to Zesco Limited and Rural Electrification Authority (REA) with each company getting US$16 million and US$17 million, respectively, resulting in the connection of about 55,000 customers to the national grid under the World Bank’s Access to Electricity for All programme.
An additional US$10 million was provided to Zesco Limited through the credit crisis window to subsidise power connection to consumers.
“We are preparing a programme with Government and we are going to the board in May this year, with something between US$25 million and US$30 million and the intention is access to electricity…This project will not change the four percent access to electricity in rural areas, but, will build a framework for other players to come in to address that low percentage,” Ms Ruthenberg said.
She said access to electricity in rural communities remains a key focus for the bank, as availability of power has potential to transform rural communities and eradicate poverty.
Meanwhile, Mr Kapika said the programme will have strong rural focus.
On how many customers it was targeting, Mr Kapika said the number of beneficiaries will be determined once the project design is complete.

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