Announced at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, a groundbreaking initiative will bring grid power to nearly 70% of Burundi’s population. Weza Power, a newly established privately-owned electricity distribution company, is the fruit of a years-long partnership between Virunga Power, supported by Gridworks, and the Government of Burundi. Over the next seven years, Weza Power endeavors to connect around 9 million individuals, a transformative feat for a nation with one of Africa’s lowest electrification rates.
Currently, only 12% of Burundi’s population, or approximately 1.4 million people, have access to electricity. In rural areas, this figure plummets to a mere 2%. The majority of households resort to using kerosene and charcoal for energy, while businesses are compelled to rely on costly and environmentally harmful diesel generators. With Weza Power’s extensive reach, this energy landscape is poised for significant positive change.
Gridworks, under the ownership of British International Investment, assumed controlling shares of Virunga Power earlier this year following a substantial $50 million investment. Virunga Power, a vital player in the formation of Weza Power, will contribute the initial equity investment. Additionally, financing support will be provided by the U.S. government’s Power Africa initiative. This marks the emergence of the first private-sector electricity distribution firm operating on a national scale in sub-Saharan Africa in over ten years.
This historic announcement, unveiled at the Africa Climate Summit, signals the initiation of a new interim agreement within the public-private partnership. This agreement is set to mobilize an initial investment of $60 million into the utility over two years. It is projected that this initial phase will facilitate approximately 300,000 Burundians in gaining access to grid electricity. Subsequently, the project aims to secure approximately $1.4 billion in funding over seven years to construct a comprehensive network of distribution infrastructure spanning two-thirds of the nation. This ambitious endeavor sets a precedent for other grid expansion projects across the continent.