energy and power

New electricity utility to connect the people of Burundi

In another story to emerge from Africa Climate Summit, which ran from 4-6 September in Nairobi, a new privately-owned and operated electricity distribution company for Burundi has been unveiled

Weza Power, the new entity, is expected to bring grid power to connect nearly 9mn people and around 70% of Burundi’s population. It is the result of a multi-year development partnership between Virunga Power, a Gridworks investee company, and the Government of Burundi. 

Gridworks is owned by British International Investment (BII) and became a controlling shareholder of Virunga Power earlier this year following a US$50mn investment. Other committed financing partners include the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) and the Power Africa initiative. 

According to Gridworks, the launch of Weza Power marks a major step forward for Africa’s energy sector as the first new private-sector electricity distribution company operating at a national level on the continent for a decade. It is hoped it will demonstrate a grid connected model for delivering new electricity connections at scale. 

The partners in the public private partnership (PPP) will embark on a new interim agreement to mobilise an initial, two-year US$60mn investment into the utility that is expected to result in around 300,000 Burundians gaining access to grid electricity. Following this, the project aims to raise around US$1.4bn over seven years to build a network of distribution infrastructure.

The new utility company will be connected to Burundi’s existing transmission network operated by REGIDESO, the state- owned utility company, that will continue to generate power from clean, run-of-river hydropower, and supply distribution-level power to the country’s main urban areas.

Simon Hodson, CEO of Gridworks, commented, “We’re proud that this is the first new private-sector electricity distribution company in sub-Saharan Africa in a decade to be granted a national scale concession. The Government of Burundi should be applauded for their foresight in working with Virunga Power to develop an innovative model that can harness private sector capital and expertise for the benefit of the country’s people.

“By bringing clean, reliable electricity to communities across rural Burundi, Weza Power will enable local entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and create jobs, and help families access basic services. Investment in electricity networks is vital to underpin economic development, as well as to support a transition to renewable energy.”

Ibrahim Uwizeye, Minister of Energy, Hydraulics, and Mining for the Government of Burundi, surmised, “We are confident that our partnership with the private sector, and in this case Weza Power, will allow us to achieve the objectives of economic growth and development in order to fulfil the vision of Burundi to become an emerging country in 2040 and a developed country in 2060.”

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