The Government of Sweden and the World Bank have signed an Electricity Service Project Grant agreement which will increase access to electricity in rural areas.
The Electricity Service Access Project (ESAP) is designed to scale-up the Output-Based Aid (OBA) subsidy approach for consumer connections in rural areas.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, ZANIS reports that the World Bank Country Manager Ina Ruthenberg said the project is co-financed by the World Bank at US$26.5 million and the government of Sweden at $8.4million equivalent.
Ms. Ruthenberg who noted that the project will significantly increase access to electricity which currently stands as low as 4 % despite an increase in access in urban areas also stated that access to electricity is critical to poverty reduction.
She observed that with almost 775 of the rural population in Zambia living below the poverty line, the current grid connection costs are unaffordable.
The World Bank Country Manager said the availability of electricity promotes economic growth in any country as it gives an opportunity to people even in rural areas to venture into various business opportunities which enables them earn a source of income.
Ms. Ruthenberg further stated that the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) is the main implementing Agency, and ZESCO through a co-execution agreement shall be responsible for rolling out grid related investments to increase access.
Speaking at the same event, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Sweden Karin Averken said the US48.4 million targets connection subsidies for households and business in rural areas and will support activities such as the development of a National Electrification Strategy.
Ms. Sverken said energy services and access to electricity has for a long time been central to the Swedish development cooperation as part of efforts to contribute to conditions for sustainable growth in Zambia.
She stated that energy plays an important part of the programme with the objective of increased access to secure and sustainable energy for households, public service and businesses.
Ms. Sverken said the capacity building component of the energy sector under the project will have a long-term benefit on the sector and the country as a whole.
And REA Chief Executive Officer Patrick Mubanga assured that his organisation will ensure that the project is done as soon as possible.