+27 71 448 3496

UK investment a boost for hydropower in Africa

Share Article
Gridworks’ investment will support the substantial growth of the Zengamina hydro-backed rural utility in northern Zambia, resulting in increased generation capacity and the addition of thousands of new connections. Image credit: Gridworks

UK investment a boost for hydropower in Africa

The USD50-million investment by UK government backed investor, Gridworks, is a boost for African focussed renewable energy supplier Virunga Power.    

Gridworks announced yesterday that it will invest more than USD50-million in Virunga Power, a company that operates hydro-backed distributed renewable power generation projects in East and Southern Africa.

Gridworks was established, and is wholly owned, by British International Investment, the UK’s development finance institution. Gridworks’ focus is to create development impact by connecting Africa’s people and businesses to reliable, affordable, clean power.

Gridworks’ investment will fund new projects across the continent, including in Burundi, Malawi, Zambia and Kenya. It will also support the substantial growth of the Zengamina hydro-backed rural utility in northern Zambia, resulting in increased generation capacity and the addition of thousands of new connections.

According to Gridworks’ CEO Simon Hodson, the company is committed to make Virunga Power its platform to build hydro-powered rural utilities in at least four countries in Southern and East Africa.

“Access to reliable, clean, affordable energy is a catalyst to a better life, but this is currently out of reach for people in the rural areas that Virunga Power wants to serve. Our capital will help these rural areas to close the energy access gap and unlock opportunities for people across the region,” says Hodson.

Virunga drives sustainable growth (UK investment a boost for renewables in Africa)

Virunga Power works with local developers and rural communities to drive sustainable economic growth and electrification for those not effectively served by national utilities.

The company uses run-of-river hydropower technology and focuses on projects of up to 20MW as well as associated transmission and distribution networks to provide affordable access to energy in rural areas, and to reinforce national grid stability.

Brian Kelly, CEO of Virunga Power, says that the company’s pipeline and portfolio of utility projects continues to grow. “We will use the capital and expertise from Gridworks to expand electricity access and drive economic and industrial growth in communities across the region,” says Kelly.

Rural electrification part of mandate ((UK investment a boost for renewables in Africa)

Rural electrification is a key part of Gridworks’ mandate and an area that is gaining greater attention from governments, funders, and policy makers as the push to achieve connection targets under the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) intensifies.

According to the World Bank, Zambia, Malawi and, in particular, Burundi have some of the world’s lowest rural electrification rates (15%, 6% and 2%, respectively).

The impact of this investment will be measured in a number of ways, including new GW hours generated, new connections made, and CO2 emissions avoided.

According to Kelly Virunga Power works with its newly connected communities to generate new income by using electricity to stimulate industrial and commercial activity.

“The company works with local financing and community development partners to help foster ecosystems that can drive productive uses of energy at the household, village, and industrial levels. For example, this includes helping customers buy machinery that can improve farming yields and boost income,” says Kelly.

Virunga Power’s current institutional backers include EDFI ElectriFI, the European Union (EU) funded Electrification Financing Initiative, and the Camco-managed Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP,) who are leading investors in early-stage energy access and renewable energy companies in Africa. Together they provided Virunga Power with critical growth capital during its ‘Series A’ investment round which closed in 2019.

Jean-Denis Collin, ElectriFI Manager at EDFI Management Company, says that over the past four years, EDFI ElectriFI, sponsored by the European Union, together with Power Africa, and the governments of Sweden and Italy, were instrumental in validating the model and further securing a pipeline of run-of-the-river hydro projects in East Africa.

“Gridworks’ investment is timely and catalytic; it brings additional expertise and capital to further convert the pipeline and build a strong hydro-powered rural utility platform in Southern and Eastern Africa, says Collin.

UK investment a boost for hydropower in Africa

WhyAfrica will visit parts of Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania during its 2023 annual Road Trip and might get a glimpse of these great projects. 

WhyAfrica reports about, and publishes newsletters, magazines and research reports about natural resources and the primary sectors of African economies, and the infrastructure, equipment and engineering methods needed to extract and utilise these resources in an efficient, responsible, sustainable, ethic and environmentally friendly way, so that it will benefit the people of Africa.

Furthermore, WhyAfrica promotes Africa as an investment and travel destination, analyses the continent’s business environment and investment opportunities, and reports on how the political economies of African countries affect their development.         

WhyAfrica provides you with business intelligence that matters. Africa is our business, and we want it to be yours too. To subscribe to WhyAfrica’s free newsletter or digital magazine, and for more news on Africa, visit the website at www.whyafrica.co.za or send a direct message. WhyAfrica launched its first ever digital magazine in November 2021.

The company will undertake its annual road trip through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, the DRC, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya in 2023. If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising opportunities, please contact me at leon@whyafrica.co.za. We have a wide range of different packages and combo deals to give your company the greatest exposure to a rapidly growing, African readership.  

The 2022 Southern Africa Road trip issue of WhyAfrica’s magazine is now available in print. The magazine was distributed in South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana during WhyAfrica’s 2022 Southern Africa Overland Road Trip, the company’s new and innovative platform. WhyAfrica has expanded its product range and now offers its readers, followers, advertisers, subscribers and partners the following:

  • Daily 24/7 online articles on WhyAfrica’s website (FREE)
  • Daily updates on WhyAfrica’s social media platforms (FREE)
  • Newsletters delivered to a handpicked audience every two weeks (FREE)
  • Two printed magazine per year distributed at large events and during our road trips across Africa featuring original, in-depth articles (FREE) with great, on-site photographs by the WhyAfrica team (FOR SALE UPON REQUEST)
  • Four digital magazines per year (FREE)
  • Live updates, video clips, articles, and podcasts during and after WhyAfrica’s annual road trips (Southern Africa in 2022, East Africa in 2023 and West Africa in 2024) (FREE)
  • Sponsorship and advertising opportunities for the annual WhyAfrica Overland Road Trips (PAID FOR)
  • A library where companies doing business in Africa can display scientific or research papers (PAID FOR)
  • A product section where companies doing business in Africa can display new offerings or services (PAID FOR)
  • Media partnerships with, and a presence at, most of the major conferences and exhibitions in the African mining, energy, agriculture, infrastructure, water management, ESG, environmental management, tourism, development, and conservation sectors (FREE)
  • WhyAfrica connects potential investors with new ventures in Africa and suppliers and service providers with existing companies in Africa (PAID FOR)
  • WhyAfrica assists companies in generating content focused on the wider African business community (PAID FOR)
  • Partnerships with companies doing business in Africa (PAID FOR)
  • Partnerships with companies thinking about expanding into Africa (PAID FOR)
  • In 2023 WhyAfrica members will have access to our in-depth articles about the African political economy, research, and country reports about the countries we visit on our road trips, and trends in the sectors that we cover (PAID FOR)
  • A WhyAfrica book is in the pipeline and if all goes according to plan, should be published towards the end of 2023 (PAID FOR)
  • The WhyAfrica consultancy arm assists and advises companies doing business in Africa through utilising our extensive global business network (PAID FOR)

Become part of the WhyAfrica community. Tell us your story. Expand your footprint across Africa and partner with us to make the most of your African experience. 

UK investment a boost for hydropower in Africa


Share Article


AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management