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Turning Energy Access into Economic Growth and Human Capital Development

Significant progress has been made towards achieving universal access to electricity. However, the socioeconomic benefits of electrification have not been fully reaped as many electrified households and businesses do not utilize electricity beyond lighting and phone charging. Moreover, the provision of reliable electricity service to public institutions remains dire especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where half of secondary schools and a quarter of health facilities have no power. The lack of reliable electricity deprives communities of economic opportunities and human capital development. In the COVID-19 pandemic/post-pandemic context, rapid action is needed to deploy vaccines through safe, effective, and sustainable cold chains, restore livelihoods, stimulate economic growth, income generation and job creation, and strengthen public institutions and the resilience of the communities.

ESMAP’s Improving Livelihoods and Human Capital (ILHC) initiative was launched in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as an ESMAP Energy Access initiative that aims to promote productive uses of electricity and electrification of public institutions to maximize electrification’s impacts. ILHC promotes a cross-sectoral and holistic approach, integrating sustainability considerations to ensure long-term, reliable service provision to activities with high socioeconomic impact. The initiative facilitates internal and external collaboration to pursue global advocacy and knowledge on the enabling role of electricity for achieving the other SDGs, and gathers multidisciplinary expertise required for building complex ecosystems for productive use of electricity and electrification of public institutions. ILHC contributes to efforts to address climate change by enabling cleaner, renewable energy for food and water security, health, and education services, and promoting energy efficiency of appliances/equipment. Additionally, the initiative brings special focus on gender and other vulnerable groups and enables economic opportunities, empowerment, skills development, safety, communication, and access to improved health and education.

Thanks to its involvement in the COVID-19 pandemic response, ILHC positioned ESMAP at the forefront of the World Bank’s health operations through support for reliable, clean power provision for health facilities, vaccine cold storage, communication, education, water, sanitation, transport, and other critical services. ILHC’s response lays the groundwork for restoring livelihoods, job creation and income generation, bringing a focus on development impact in energy access and COVID-19 response operations.

ILHC supports response, adaptation, and resilience, contributing to a greater value proposition to clients focused on impact and sustainability. The ILHC initiative supports governments in developing countries through three main streams of work:

  1. Knowledge sharing, data collection and analytics, which aim to develop reports, capacity building programs, and operational tools to advance the understanding of the ecosystems required for productive use of electricity and sustainable models for electrification of public institutions.
  2. Operational support for project design and implementation to mainstream productive uses of electricity and electrification of public institutions in access operations.
  3. Partnership-building and enhancing the convening role of ESMAP to foster inter-sector cooperation, ensure coordination, advocacy, political support, knowledge sharing, and alignment of investments.

In addition to the support described above, ILHC provided technical assistance, grants, and staff-support for projects currently under preparation or implementation in the following countries:

  • Sahel: ESMAP supports analysis of the electrification of public institutions (technical characteristics, investment needs, long-term O&M arrangements) and barriers for market uptake, and business models for productive uses of electricity to inform the two Multiphase Programmatic Approaches under preparation, Niger Accelerating Electricity Access Project/Haské and Chad Energy Access Scale Up Project. In Niger, ESMAP-funded activities complement UNICEF’s ongoing assessments of the electrification of health and education facilities. Gender specific interventions for improving livelihoods in fragile areas are incorporated in these assessments.
  • Burundi: ESMAP provides technical expertise and grant support to take stock of the electrification strategy and estimated demand of health and education facilities, design standardized solar-power service packages for up to 400 sites, and a sustainability plan under Solar Energy in Local Communities/SOLEIL incorporating lessons learned.
  • Haiti: ESMAP provides technical assistance, grant, and staff supports to the Renewable Energy for All Project as part of the COVID-19 Emergency Response and to enhance activities related to mini grid and off-grid development. It contributes to leverage cross-sector collaboration with Health, Water, and ICT Global Practices and includes, for instance, supporting geospatial work to identify rural health clinics.
  • Liberia: ESMAP provides grant to the Electricity Sector Strengthening and Access Project for the electrification of health care and vaccine storage facilities through stand-alone solar systems. It focuses on urgent provision of solar PV services to (1) selected health facilities to enhance the delivery of healthcare services and improve their resilience during epidemics; and (2) identified vaccine storage facilities to support the COVID-19 vaccine cold chain through capacity building, stakeholder engagement, and just-in-time policy advice to support the government.

The ILHC team continues efforts to identify additional opportunities that support rapid response to COVID-19 and economic recovery, including demand stimulation for efficient cold storage along horticulture value chains in Rwanda, productive use development for the grid expansion program in Cote d’Ivoire or off-grid electrification in Togo leveraging digitalization technologies, and improving livelihoods in fragile borderlands in Horn of Africa.

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