JOHANNESBURG – The Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia (BGFZ), a Sweden-funded programme that has brought clean, off-grid energy to over 600,000 people, has won the 2019 Ashden award in the innovative finance category for its work to kick-start a market for affordable services.
The programme was launched in 2016 with the aim to expand access to clean off-grid energy in rural and peri-urban areas in Zambia. It supports four companies and works closely with the government in its efforts to build a thriving market.
It is well on its way to connecting more than one million Zambians to clean and affordable energy, said Sabera Khan, senior liaison for Beyond the Grid Fund, based in the capital Lusaka.
“This international recognition and the success stories and lessons learnt from Zambia will support us as we expand the BGF approach to other African countries,” said Khan.
Zambia’s acting permanent secretary in the energy ministry Arnold Simwaba said the project had demonstrated how a well-designed financing mechanism could be truly transformative.
The project has also proved that small-scale energy solutions can generate large-scale effects, said Anders Arvidson, project lead for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) Power Africa Initiative.
“For BGFZ to be recognised as an ‘international trailblazer’ in sustainable energy is incredibly encouraging,” Arvidson said. “We hope this award will bring new partnerships and opportunities to take the programme even further.”
Though the original goal was to connect one million people by 2021, the four contracted companies are on track to reach 1.6 million by the programme end date, in a country where some 70 percent of the population does not have access to modern energy services.
The four companies, Emerging Cooking Solutions, Fenix Intl, Standard Microgrid and VITALITE Zambia, provide services ranging from small, entry-level solar home systems that can power lights and a phone charger to mini-grid-connections which offer similar service to the national grid.
– African News Agency (ANA)