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Powering Health with Clean Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa


Highlights

  • Health facilities across sub-Saharan Africa lack reliable power and digital connections.
  • HETA is supporting increased energy access and digital connectivity in health facilities.
  • Reliable power and connectivity save lives and builds sustainable livelihoods.
The Challenge

Across sub-Saharan Africa, tens of thousands of health facilities lack access to reliable electricity and internet connections. Without them, facilities can’t keep the lights on for births or emergency surgeries at night or reliably provide patients with oxygen. They also can’t refrigerate vaccines and other temperature-sensitive medical commodities or use the digital communications and records management tools that modern medicine relies on.

Health facilities often meet energy access needs by installing diesel-powered generators, but this is a temporary solution that requires expensive fuel and carries the potential for equipment-damaging power surges. Despite a recent push to install solar panels and other renewable energy systems in and around health facilities, a lack of sustained funding and trained personnel to operate and maintain the systems has limited their ability to support health service delivery on a wider scale. This creates gaps in essential care and life-saving health services for millions, and diminishes the health system’s resilience to stresses and shocks caused by disease outbreaks, climate change, or other factors. The Abt-led Power Africa Health Electrification and Telecommunications Alliance (HETA) is designed to meet these challenges at the scale the region requires.

The Approach

The five-year, $47 million Global Development Alliance—comprising Abt and HETA core partners RESOLVE, bechtel.org (Bechtel’s social enterprise), and Orange—will leverage significant public and private sector resources to install clean, reliable power and provide mobile network and internet access for health facilities across sub-Saharan Africa.  Together, we are building a diverse coalition of co-funders and implementation partners to deliver on HETA’s goals.

HETA’s model emphasizes energy as a service, which means going beyond procuring and installing equipment at each facility to also support long-term operations and maintenance (O&M) of the systems. Funding O&M addresses a key challenge for sustainability. Of course, the systems will include solar, battery, and other innovative energy technology, but they will also incorporate mobile network access through cell towers and other infrastructure. All this requires funding and innovation beyond USAID’s initial investment. Thus, HETA is convening a diverse group of partners, including private sector entities, African government allies, non-profit foundations, donors, and energy and telecommunications service providers.

System designs, where feasible, will also enable sales of surplus power (off-take) to businesses and families in the surrounding communities, which will help generate revenue for system maintenance, supporting financial sustainability. It also transforms health facilities into hubs for local development, giving people access to the power and connectivity they need to start or grow businesses, stimulate incomes, and create new communities of connection.

The Results

Over five years, HETA’s work will enable improvements to health outcomes and sustained access to clean energy and internet connections for communities and health service providers across sub-Saharan Africa. Working with Power Africa, Abt is formalizing commitments with the first tranche of partners to begin country implementation in 2023.

HETA’s long-term vision seeks organizational sustainability beyond these first five years. Working with Power Africa and our partners, we are also convening partners to help build the governance structure and funding base for an independent organization that can continue our work into the future, ideally without USAID funds.

For more information or to find out how to join the alliance, please share your contact details with us: