Multi-billion dollar Africa-India partnership aims to eradicate electricity poverty

CNBC Africa interview with Power for All’s William Brent

As this CNBC Africa interview with Power for All shows, the pieces are falling into place for an important collaboration between India and Africa to end energy poverty. The stakes are high, as sub-Saharan Africa and India account for over 80 percent of the world’s 1.1 billion unelectrified.

On the heels of the first annual meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) ever held in India last month, this cross-continental partnership is evolving quickly, both in the public and private sectors. Of note, it is taking place at a time when India’s long-time rival China is investing tens of billions of dollars in African infrastructure to secure resources for its future development, adding an element of geopolitics that will be worth following despite India’s position that it is not engaging in Africa with “strategic intent” but to end poverty and promote social justice.

FuturePump solar irrigation project (credit: IWMI and www.jeffreymwalcott.com)

India already pledged in 2015 a concessional credit line of $10 billion to Africa over five years, earmarking at least 15–20 percent (or up to $2 billion) for solar energy projects, largely off-grid, to be implemented through the India-hosted International Solar Alliance (ISA).

The area most ripe for immediate collaboration is solar irrigation, which is already scaling rapidly in India and will be a major help to the AfDB in its goals of achieving universal electricity access and ending hunger and malnutrition by 2025. India too has major ambitions, including 100 percent household electrification by 2019.

The intent to ramp up collaboration was clear at the AfDB meeting, where India’s government said it had received interest from Indian companies to install 664,000 solar pumps, install 56 megawatts of mini-grids and train 5,400 solar mechanics in Africa.

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