Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), apart from being the major collective voice of the Global South in the current international order, has also been vocal in highlighting the issues related to environment and sustainable development. A major aspect of this is a thrust on clean energy. At its recent summits, NAM Declarations have emphasised the needs need to diversify energy by developing advanced, cleaner, more efficient, affordable and cost-effective energy technologies, including fossil fuel technologies and renewable energy technologies. NAM has stressed the importance of enhancing international cooperation through partnership in all forms of energy including clean and renewable energy.

An important initiative in Africa related to renewable energy is the Africa Minigrids Program (AMP). This Africa-wide initiative is led by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), funded by the Global Environment Facility, and in partnership with African Development Bank and Rocky Mountain Institute. The program was officially launched by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in Abuja, Nigeria on September 29, 2022. The programme aims to support access to clean energy by increasing the financial viability, and promoting scaled up commercial investment, in renewable energy mini-grids, with a focus on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models. The programme is active in 21 African Countries and the Nigeria national project implemented by the REA is the first to commence implementation.

According to the UNDP, sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest energy access deficit in the world. An estimated 568 million people do not have access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. This represents three-quarters of the world’s population without electricity. Some 80% of people in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to clean, safe fuels and technologies for cooking, which constitutes 40% of the world’s population that does not have access to clean cooking. This substantial energy gap effectively locks some of the world’s most vulnerable communities in poverty, with most of them living in Africa.

According to the Global Environment Facility, renewable energy minigrids (‘minigrids’), and in particular solar-battery minigrids, offer great potential to address the 789 million people globally – including 548 million in sub-Saharan Africa – who currently don’t have access to electricity. This minigrids opportunity is centered around falling hardware costs (solar modules, batteries, energy efficient appliances), disruptive digital trends (mobile money, digital platforms and data), and innovative private sector business models. The AMP is a country-led technical assistance program for minigrids. The program’s objective is to support access to clean energy by increasing the financial viability, and promoting scaled up commercial investment, in low-carbon minigrids in Africa, with a focus on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.

The AMP is comprised of two major elements: First, a Regional Platform which will support the national projects and the market for minigrids through the following major actions: 1) Knowledge tools for both public and private actors; 2) tailored technical assistance to countries; 3) Specialised regional communities of practice; and 4) support for digitalization in the minigrids market. Second, 21 National Projects each with a common architecture consisting of four components: 1) policy and regulations, 2) business model innovation and private sector, 3) digitalization and 4) innovative finance for minigrids scale-up, and 4) digitalization ,knowledge management and monitoring and evaluation.

The AMP aims to leverage $650 million in co-financing. Through its interventions, namely the minigrids investment pilots, the Programme aims to directly avoid 347,567 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and reach 406,456 direct beneficiaries. Through its close work with government, communities and partners, it also seeks to generate indirect impacts on an even greater scale, with an estimated 29 million indirect beneficiaries and 26,981,449 tCO2eqemissions reductions enabled by its activities. This is in addition to climate resilience benefits and socio-economic benefits of minigrids for vulnerable communities, which are even more salient in a context of COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery.

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