Off-Grid Solutions to Expand Electricity Access across West Africa and the Sahel
May 07 2019

The World Bank Group (WBG) recently approved the Regional Off-Grid Electrification Project (ROGEP) to help expand off-grid access to electricity across 19 countries in the ECOWAS region of West Africa, as well as in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, and Mauritania.

Using a harmonized approach across the entire region, ROGEP aims to increase electricity access for households, businesses, and public institutions. It is expected to benefit about 1.7 million people.

The project draws heavily on the experience and expertise of the ESMAP-supported WBG programs Lighting Africa and Lighting Global to help facilitate the development of a sustainable off-grid solar energy market in response to the vast electrification needs in the region.

Over half of the 406 million people living in the target countries lack access to electricity. Modern off-grid solar systems can quickly, affordably, and sustainably provide energy access, and according to geospatial analysis supported by ESMAP, they present the lowest-cost option for about 65% of the rural population in the region.

Based on this market intelligence, Lighting Africa recognized that private companies offering stand-alone solar systems were only operating in four of the 19 countries in the region. Surveys conducted in cooperation with Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), found that the private sector viewed the West African markets as fragmented, with a high cost for entry and low market potential. There was little access to finance and landlocked countries meant increased costs to navigate borders, which increases the cost of the product for the consumer.  

In order to increase access to these transformative products for those who stand to benefit the most from them, ESMAP tapped into Lighting Global’s successful approach for unlocking market potential. As a result, ROGEP was designed to harmonize policies and introduce regional quality standards that will make the region far more attractive and easier to navigate for private sector companies. The project will also provide support to local entrepreneurs through training, and by breaking down barriers in accessing finance. Business models to electrify schools and health clinics will also be piloted.

ESMAP also helped to secure US$ 75 million from the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) for risk mitigation for commercial banks to facilitate access to debt financing in support of the stand-alone solar systems market, technical support for entrepreneurs, as well as for market entry grants. ESMAP is also promoting a stronger donor engagement in ROGEP with the aim to mobilize additional resources.

Read more about ROGEP here.