COMESA and the World Bank are poised to execute a $50 million regional initiative aimed at bolstering sustainable energy access investments for Member States and other participating nations.

Part of the larger $5 billion World Bank programme, the Accelerating Sustainable and Clean Energy Access Transformation (ASCENT) program, seeks to provide life-transforming opportunities for 100 million people in Eastern and Southern Africa over the next seven years.

This move will be crucial in a region where only 48 percent of the overall population, and a mere 26 percent in rural areas, currently enjoys access to electricity.

Under the supervision and execution of COMESA, the newly established regional platform will offer support to participating countries through diverse initiatives designed to address identified technical gaps in the energy sector.

This includes project preparation, investment readiness, technical expertise, and energy access.

The platform will engage specialised firms and individuals to provide demand-driven technical support to both public and private sector entities in participating countries.

Additionally, it will feature a Digital Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (DMRV) platform serving as a central repository for information on new energy connections resulting from the ASCENT Programme.

This consolidation of data is anticipated to pave the way for countries and their energy service providers to access carbon finance through the amalgamation of carbon credits resulting from clean energy connections.

Chileshe Kapwepwe, Secretary General of COMESA, emphasised the importance of this African-owned and led platform in enhancing project implementation, facilitating knowledge exchange, project preparation, advisory services, and supporting policy development.

Ms Kapwepwe urged member states to actively engage with the secretariat to become part of this transformative initiative.

The objectives of the new platform and the broader ASCENT program include providing reliable energy to enhance productivity and job opportunities, expanding access to information and technologies, improving health, reducing time spent on cooking chores, and enhancing the resilience and services of electrified schools and health clinics.

Women, often disproportionately affected by the lack of energy access, stand to benefit significantly.

Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director for Regional Integration in Africa and the Middle East, expressed the World Bank’s pleasure in collaborating with COMESA on the energy access agenda.

She highlighted the necessity of a regional approach to meaningfully scale up energy access for transformative economic impact in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The lack of energy access is identified as a hindrance to the region’s economic recovery, resilience, and rapid progress toward poverty reduction. It contributes to significant food spoilage due to a lack of refrigeration, especially in countries grappling with food insecurity.

Furthermore, it plays a role in poor health outcomes, with less than half of all hospitals in the region having reliable electricity access.