Impact management

Accelerating SDG investments in Democratic Republic of Congo

Rich in tropical rain forest reserves – second only to the Amazon -, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is also poor in terms of energy access. Just 9 percent of the country’s 80 million people have power – the rest rely on wood, which destroys the carbon-rich forests, or diesel-powered generators, which are unreliable, polluting and expensive. Energy in some places can cost more than in an average European city.

ProductSettlement analysis, Distribution layout
CountryDemocratic Republic of Congo
Collaborators In partnership with the IFC and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo

If the Congo is to meet the UN’s goal of universal sustainable electrification by 2030, it has just eight years to create energy access for some 72 million people. Rising to the challenge, the Congo government has worked with VIDA to build what they called an “atlas” of information on towns in the country without electricity in order to establish what and how much investment is needed – and which places to prioritise.

“Congo is one of the world’s biggest rural electrification markets, but it’s also very data lean. Road connections are few and so there was very little that was known about these places.” Nabin Raj Gaihre, CEO & Founder VIDA

The government list included 7,000 towns. VIDA’s state-of-the-art software combined satellite data with on-the-ground-surveys to create live, digitalized models for these towns. These sophisticated and living maps (the data is continuously updated) give the size of settlements, the number of connections, distance to the national grid as well as vital contextual information such as agricultural activity, any history of conflict and distance to trade centers.

“Once you know where people are and what infrastructure is there, you can make assessments and use that data in different ways,” says Nabin. “For example, you might look at settlements near forests where the data shows that deforestation is a pressing issue and decide to prioritise those in terms of giving them access to off-grid power.”

Based on this, the government created a shortlist of 184 towns that are to be given electrification priority. Using VIDA software, the government can now make policy decisions such as whether to extend the national grid or issue a tender for alternative energy providers to equip these sites. Processes that used to take years are now resolved within months – making goals like the UN goal of sustainable electrification for all by 2030, achievable.

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