The Sweden-funded Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia (BGFZ) programme has won the 2019 Ashden Award in the category of Innovative Finance. Designed and implemented by REEEP, BGFZ has been recognised for its use of an innovative financing mechanism to kick-start a market for affordable off-grid energy services in Zambia.
Steven Miyoba shows off the ReadyPay solar panel on the roof of his house, on the outskirts of Lusaka. “Before it would be dark at 6pm and we didn’t have any lighting. Now, we have a trusted brand that even my daughter knows how to use.” Image credit: Jason Mulikita, REEEP
“We are honoured to receive this award not only as BGFZ or REEEP, but also on behalf of the Zambian and the Swedish people,” said Sabera Khan, senior liaison for Beyond the Grid Fund, based in Lusaka, Zambia. The programme, she said, is “well on its way to connecting more than one million Zambians to clean and affordable energy”.
“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.
“We are delighted with this recognition for the Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia, for our partnership with the Swedish Government and REEEP, and our work with a host of other partners through the Off-Grid Task Force,” said Arnold Simwaba, acting permanent secretary at the Zambian Ministry of Energy. “Together we are building an enabling environment for the private sector to use new technologies and provide cost-effective solutions with great impact. The Beyond the Grid Fund has demonstrated how a well-designed financing mechanism can be truly transformative, and this Ashden Award will help us show that to the world.”
Mary Mpupuma, Vitalite Zambia’s agent in Katoba village, in her shop. “I teach people in the community why Vitalite is a better product for them. We don’t use candles anymore which helps us avoid accidents and saves us money. It is also helping children to study at night and families to stay up later.” Image credit: Jason Mulikita, REEEP
Partnerships and opportunities
“For BGFZ to be recognised as an ‘international trailblazer’ in sustainable energy is incredibly encouraging. We hope this award will bring new partnerships and opportunities to take the programme even further,” said Anders Arvidson, project lead for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) Power Africa Initiative. “We have proved that small-scale energy solutions can generate large-scale effects.”
The Power Africa: Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia (BGFZ) was launched in 2016 with the aim to expand access to clean off-grid energy in rural and peri-urban areas in Zambia. The programme supports four companies through a results-based financing mechanism, and works closely with the government in its efforts to build a thriving market for off-grid energy services.
In a country where some 70% of the population does not have access to modern energy services, BGFZ has kick-started a market for affordable, reliable and renewable energy services provided by the private sector. 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.
Ester Tembo lives with her children and grandchildren in a village an hour outside Lusaka. Her SupaMoto efficient stove saves her time when cooking for her family, and reduces indoor air pollution. In this photo, she is assisted by her eight-year-old granddaughter Dorkas. Image credit: Jason Mulikita, REEEP
“These numbers really prove that development can happen while addressing climate change,” said Magdalena Svensson, of the Swedish Embassy in Lusaka.
Ashden CEO Harriet Lamb hailed BGFZ for its success in incentivising companies to move into underserved parts of Zambia. “The Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia deploys finance in a strategic way to increase access to clean energy rapidly, at scale. The principle of ‘leave no-one behind’ is at its very core, incentivising companies to reach the most marginalised communities, with high quality energy services and long-term maintenance. What’s not to like? We hope they can inspire others to follow their pioneering steps.”
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