Tracking and Influencing African Development Bank Energy Investments in Southern Africa

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On the 30th of May 2024, Action 24 the Southern Africa Node Coordinator for ACCESS Coalition launched the report analyzing the funding provided by the African Development Bank (AfDB) for energy projects in Zimbabwe between 2014 and 2021.

The report aimed to present relevant findings and recommendations with key stakeholders and explore ways of catalyzing action among stakeholders to prioritize and scale up investments in clean energy by leveraging the findings and recommendations of the report to mobilize alliances, resources, and support. The report compares Zimbabwe’s energy access with other African nations such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. It highlights the importance of energy access in achieving Sustainable Development Goals and creating economic opportunities for women and youth. The report can be accessed on the Action24 website.

Patricia, representing the ACCESS Secretariat, delivered the opening remarks, emphasizing the need for meaningful outcomes and actionable recommendations to advance advocacy for energy access. She highlighted that this marks the beginning of efforts to influence advocacy in multilateral development banks (MDBs) in the Southern Region, addressing issues related to finance flows in energy access, grid, and decentralized renewable energy DRE.

Results show that a total of US$78,119,402 has flowed towards Zimbabwe for energy projects or technical support. Most of the energy support is grid-based and focused on the distribution of hydro and thermal power.

The report stresses the need for the African Development Bank to increase its attention to decentralized renewable energy (DRE) financing since it aims to expand generation capacity and improve grid infrastructure. The report emphasizes the importance of conducting a more in-depth socio-economic analysis of the implications of grid extensions, dams, and decentralized renewable energy (DRE) projects on the natural environment and society. By considering these factors, stakeholders can create effective strategies to promote sustainable energy access in Zimbabwe and beyond.

The report noted that the AfDB has been a major investor in Zimbabwe’s energy sector over the past decade, providing financing and technical assistance for various power generation and transmission projects. AfDB has been a key partner in Zimbabwe’s efforts to address its chronic power shortages and modernize its energy infrastructure. The bank’s investments have helped increase generation capacity and improve grid reliability.

Major AfDB Energy Projects in Zimbabwe include the Kariba South Hydropower Expansion Project, the Zimbabwe Transmission and Distribution Rehabilitation and Expansion Project, and lastly Hwange Thermal Power Station Expansion Project among others. In addition to project financing, the AfDB has provided advisory services and technical assistance to strengthen Zimbabwe’s energy sector planning and management capabilities. The bank has also supported reforms to Zimbabwe’s electricity regulatory framework and utility operations.

Dr. Nqobizitha Dube has highlighted the current AfDB annual meetings’ recognition of the imperative for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to engage in the energy sector. An important agenda item is the inclusion of AfDB-operated instruments that provide CSOs with access to grants without subjecting them to penalties for the adverse effects of climate change. CSOs are advocating for grants to facilitate access to energy, thereby capitalizing on AfDB commitments to mitigate emissions.

Wellington Madumira, the coordinator of Climate Action Network (CAN) Zimbabwe urged the AfDB to significantly scale up its investments in renewable energy projects in Zimbabwe, such as solar, wind, and small-scale hydropower. This would help the country transition away from its heavy reliance on fossil fuels and outdated grid infrastructure.

Stephanie Borchardt, the Chair in the Sociology of Land, Environment, and Sustainable Development at Stellenbosch University, presented an academic viewpoint emphasizing the significance of addressing energy requirements in Zimbabwe. Borchardt underscored the necessity of adopting diverse strategies to cater to the energy needs of the country as a whole and those of individual households. She emphasized the critical nature of energy accessibility in rural areas and advocated for the implementation of decentralized renewable energy systems to support the operations of the Rural Electrification Agency. Furthermore, she highlighted the importance of affordability and a multi-tiered approach to energy access in Zimbabwe.

Borchardt noted that solar power has the potential to address issues such as poverty and inequality, but stressed the essentiality of conducting awareness campaigns to educate the populace regarding its benefits. She emphasized the pressing need for sustainable energy solutions in Zimbabwe, particularly in light of the impact of power cuts on healthcare and food security. Additionally, she discussed the Africa Development Bank’s commitment to aiding sustainable development in commercial banks, with a specific focus on promoting a green revolution and energy efficiency.

Rebecca Chirega, the Executive Director of Women in Communities (WICO), delved into the topic of financing clean energy transitions in Africa, specifically focusing on the empowerment of rural women. She emphasized the imperative of amplifying projects that are accessible to Community Service Organizations (CSOs) operating within these communities. Additionally, she underscored the necessity for financial flows to generate a meaningful impact on women, particularly in rural areas characterized by limited access to clean cooking technology. Furthermore, she highlighted that augmented funding for Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE) has the potential to empower these communities.

Admire Chanyandura lecturer at Chinhoyi University of Technology wants the AfDB to strengthen its environmental and social impact assessment procedures for energy projects in Zimbabwe. This includes ensuring proper community consultation, protecting Indigenous rights, and mitigating climate and biodiversity risks

Never Mujere, the founder of Environment Management Trust urged AfDB to include supporting programs to improve energy efficiency in buildings, industries, and transportation in Zimbabwe, which could help reduce overall energy demand and emissions.

Thando of the South Africa Climate Action Network emphasized that the AfDB’s energy strategy for Zimbabwe should be closely coordinated with the country’s own renewable energy goals and policies to ensure coherence and maximize impact.

Chantelle Tauya, Action24 project officer, said that AfDB should take a more proactive, sustainable, and socially inclusive approach to its energy investments in Zimbabwe.

The report noted the major entry points for CSOs in advocating for the financial support to be grant-based; information dissemination and capacity building of the public on issues peculiar to the energy space and the mitigation of information asymmetries and market distortions that limit the participation of private players in the generation of clean energy and cooking technology.