The power of electric cooperatives comes to Zambia

The Republic of Zambia is embarking on a bold initiative to achieve universal electricity access by 2030. To support this challenge, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a cooperative agreement to NRECA International to support formation and growth of electric cooperatives that will play a key role in supporting economic development in rural communities in Zambia.

NRECA International, with decades of experience in establish rural electric cooperatives in partnership with USAID, signed a cooperative agreement with USAID in October 2021. The Zambia Electric Cooperative Development Program was launched on November 16th at a kick-off meeting in Lusaka, attended by key stakeholders from the Ministry of Energy, the Zambia Rural Electrification Authority, the Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Industry, the Zambia Cooperative Federation, the Energy Regulation Board.

Kick off meeting in Lusaka, for USAID’s Zambia Electric Cooperative Development Program

“The rural electrification rate has been slow in the last decade with only a 4% increase in connections,” said Shawna Hirsch, the USAID/Zambia Deputy Director, Office of Economic Development & Environment during the kickoff meeting. “A drastic change needs to take place to fulfill the dream for everyone in Zambia to have access to electricity. We are all eager to learn more about the rural electric cooperative model, a model new to the people in Zambia.”

The electric cooperative business model has successfully contributed to electrification expansion in many other countries. Drawing on experience from successful electrification programs from Latin America, South and Southeast Asia and from recent projects in Africa, NRECA International will work in collaboration with the Government of Zambia and non-government stakeholders to identify, select and develop cooperatives in high priority communities in rural Zambia.

The Zambia Electric Cooperative Development Program aligns with the Government of Zambia’s 7th National Development Plan which aspires Zambia to be designated as middle-income country. It also is consistent with the National Cooperative Development Strategy which supports promoting and facilitating the formation and growth of cooperatives across all sectors.

“Community engagement is the hallmark of a cooperative,” said Dan Waddle, NRECA International senior vice president, during the kick-off meeting in Lusaka. “We want to invest in the human resources and build capacity so when NRECA International leaves, these electric cooperatives will be sustainable and will be able to carry forward.”

“The USAID mission is proud to support and endorse this program,” said Hirsch. “We look forward to the opportunity of supporting this process over the five-year project life.