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According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), new technology and blended finance will help to bridge the “last mile” of the infrastructure gap in Africa, getting goods and services to end users, and connecting underserved populations to business value chains.

Technology and blended finance to help bridge the African infrastructure last mile

Speaking at the recent Global Infrastructure Forum, Wale Shonibare, AfDB’s Director for Energy Financial Solutions, Policy and Regulation, said the Bank’s commitment to connect millions of households under its New Deal On Energy For Africa required flexibility and innovation from both a technology and financial perspective. “We are looking to connect 200 million households to electricity – 75 million of those will be off-grid,” he said.  

Given the remarkable improvements in the field, Shonibare said there was no doubt as to the role technology could play in its Light Up drive and other key aspects of the Bank’s development agenda. “Smart technologies and creative financing models could facilitate business and inclusiveness, improving livelihoods across the continent.”

According to Shonibare, the first large-scale local currency financing structure using the securitisation technique for the off-grid renewable energy sector in Africa will provide access to approximately 100 000 rural households with pay-as-you-go solar home systems by 2020. This is as a result of a credit guarantee on the part of AfDB in Cote d’Ivoire covering part of a guaranteed loan facility to Zola EDF Côte d'Ivoire, a 50/50 joint venture between Off-Grid Electric (OGE) and EDF.

Energy projects in Rwanda and Nigeria which had obtained Bank approval were additional examples of the Bank partnering with the private sector to bring service to end users in innovative ways, he added.

Speaking at the same event, Sarquis Jose Buainain Srqis, Vice President for Economic Research, Risk and Strategy and Partnerships NDB, warned that the contribution of development banks would still depend on conventional infrastructure such as roads and healthcare access, which is why innovation was particularly essential. Jiang Yang, an entrepreneur from China who has developed a map-based public participation platform focusing on space quality and livelihood issues, added that data would be essential to the process of creating opportunities for doing business inclusiveness, and improving the livelihood of people.

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