World Bank pledges $5bln to six African countries

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The commitment is a part of United States president Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative, which aims to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as target and alleviate pathways to poverty.

“We think that the US Power Africa initiative will play an extremely important role in achieving the goal of providing electricity for Africa,” World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim said in a statement.

“So today I’m very pleased to announce that the World Bank Group, following President Obama’s lead, will partner with Power Africa by committing 5 billion dollars in direct financing, investment guarantees, and advisory services for project preparation in Power Africa’s six initial partner countries.”

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Kim added that the US government will also be working with the World Bank to meet the target of generating 10,000 megawatts of new power in sub-Saharan Africa.

The announcement comes during the US-Africa Summit currently underway in Washington, with a number of African heads of state such as Tanzania’s president Jakaya Kikwete and Ghana’s president John Dramani Mahama in attendance.

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According to World Bank figures, roughly 24 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population has access to electricity, versus 40 per cent in other low income countries.

Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s vice president for Africa, explained that the investment into energy has to go beyond building power stations and grids.  

“Beyond building up power generators, they must be connected to the market, which calls for regional cooperation to build the transmission network. We are working with African leaders and their development partners to create power pools in Africa’s East, West, Central, and Southern sub-regions,” said Diop.

“Those countries with abundant geothermal, gas, hydro, solar, and wind resources can feed their excess power supply into a common pool, while neighbouring states with less energy and generation capacity can benefit from this integrated approach to delivering electricity to their people.”