World Bank to turn attention to Africa

The head of the International Finance Corp. (IFC), the World Bank’s private sector arm, says the agency plans to increase its funding of projects in Africa, including electricity work. (HNN 9/7/06)

“We are getting more and more represented in Africa and I expect that to continue,” International Finance Corp. chief Lars Thunell said. “I’m going to make sure it happens.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings September 20 in Singapore, Thunell said IFC is ready to invest in an array of sectors in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) once a new president is elected in October.

“We’re ready to go once the situation stabilizes,” he said.

The IFC has funds set aside for the DRC, which is rich in resources, including hydropower potential, after October’s presidential election run-off, following the first multi-party vote in four decades. Projects range from power generation and financial services to mining and construction. (HNN 8/29/06)

“We have ideas on how to get electricity generation up, get access to finance out to more people,” he said.

Off-grid projects seen for Sub-Saharan Africa

Earlier in the month, World Bank Energy Director Jamal Saghir said investments in off-grid energy generation projects are the quickest way to get electricity to the 1.6 billion people in the world without lights. The World Bank prepared a draft of two proposed funds to present at the Singapore meetings: a Clean Energy Financing Vehicle consisting of low-interest loans and Clean Energy Support Fund grants.

Saghir said total generating capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, is about 30 gigawatts or equal to Poland’s power output, making the region a prime target for small-scale hydropower projects and other renewables.

“You can wait for a transmission line, but in some places it’s so expensive it takes time,” he said. “Don’t wait for the grid to come to your village, it could take 20 years.”

While Africa adds about 1 gigawatt of capacity each year, China is adding that much every week, Saghir said. But China expanded electricity access to more than 90 percent of its population from 50 percent in 30 years because its provinces set up off-grid energy distribution networks while they waited for transmission lines to reach them, he added.

Hydro projects are particularly appealing in Sub-Saharan Africa, which presently only uses about 20 percent of its potential and could add to farmland irrigation also, he said.

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