Picture credit: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development Pictured: Elizabeth Mukwimba


Sustainable Energy for Economic Development
Accelerating electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa

Image Courtesy Off-Grid Electric

What Is SEED?

The Sustainable Energy for Economic Development team partners with governments, utilities, development partners, and the private sector in sub-Saharan Africa to drive affordable, efficient, and resilient energy systems that incorporate emerging distributed energy resources to rapidly provide energy access and increase economic development.

Photo credit: Irene Angwenyi / USAID Kenya

Why It Matters

Today, more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to reliable electricity. What’s more, it is the only region in the world where population growth is outstripping growth in access, which means the percentage of people in the region with access to electricity—and the benefits it brings—is set to decline.

Picture credit: Joerg Boethling

What We’re Doing

We are working in sub-Saharan Africa to increase access to and the productive use of sustainable electricity. Our goal is to transform the power sector and demonstrate how a whole-systems approach improves lives and accelerates economic development.


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Photo courtesy of Eric Wanless

What We’ve Accomplished

  • In partnership with the regulator, utility and, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity we’ve defined the value that energy efficiency has in decreasing utility losses, increasing economic productivity, and freeing up capacity for better quality service and additional connections.
  • We are supporting development partners and the government to explore off-grid technology solutions, codify the role solutions like minigrids play in Ethiopia’s National Electrification Plan and link electrification to the productive use of energy.
  • Our team quantified the minigrid market potential and defined a series of real-world project financials, which has created global interest in the Nigeria market. We now see an intense focus on minigrid development that will result in hundreds to thousands of communities and markets receiving high-quality power for the first time.
  • We’re facilitating “undergrid” minigrid project development with distribution companies and minigrid developers. When these sites are developed they will demonstrate the value of minigrid integration with the traditional grid which will serve as a beacon for what is possible with a more collaborative approach globally.
  • Our holistic energy plan identified the need to focus on investment beyond traditional power supply in order to avoid taking on additional unnecessary debt and to ensure the value of energy access is realized through demand stimulation programs. As a result, Uganda energy stakeholders are aware and aligned on the importance of these issues - a critical first step toward long-term change
  • Our integrated planning work with the utility led to a clear understanding that too much capacity coming onto the grid in large pieces could create challenges for the country; this work contributed to the decision to change their investment approach to be more firmly grounded in robust analytics
  • We co-developed an off-grid electrification strategy that led to multiple solar home system companies operating in Rwanda which leads to lower pricing and better products for consumers.
Clean Renewable Energy for African Countries
  • We’re working with the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility to accelerate cost reductions in minigrids and increase their commercial viability to scale the impact they have on access rates and economic development.

Our Partners

Virgin Unite


The Rockefeller Foundation


Our Team

Eric Wanless

James Sherwood

Kelly Carlin

Katie Lau
Marketing Manager

Callie Ruh
Compliance Manager

Sachi Graber
Senior Associate

Elizabeth O'Grady
Senior Associate

Scarlett Santana
Senior Associate

Alexander Komakech Akena
East Africa Regional Coordinator

Edward Borgstein
Regional Program Coordinator

Wayne Omonuwa
Nigeria Energy Lead

Andrew Allee
Research Fellow

Ruosida (Star) Lin
Senior Associate

Zihe Meng
Senior Associate

Kester Wade


Sharing the Power Project


Minigrid Investment Report: Scaling The Nigerian Market


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Using Undergrid Minigrids to Drive Development in Thousands of Sub-Saharan African Communities


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Closing The Circuit: Stimulating End-Use Demand For Rural Electrification


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Closing the Circuit: Fostering end-use demand for rural electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa


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Reliable and Affordable Electricity for Nigeria: Growing the Minigrid Market


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Key Players Convene to Fast Track Minigrid Market Implementation


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Nigeria Minigrid Investment Brief in collaboration with the Rural Electrification Agency and the World Bank


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Accelerating Sustainable Electricity Access in sub-Saharan Africa


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Sustainable Electricity for Economic Development (SEED)

Driving clean, reliable, and affordable energy access in sub-Saharan Africa

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