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Accenture Leading Effort to Bring Renewable Energy to Off-Grid Communities in Africa

Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP) is a consortium featuring Accenture, the University of Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) and The Rural Development Company, which have joined forces on a renewable energy initiative in Uganda and South Africa that leverages solar-powered microgrids to deliver clean, affordable electricity to local populations.

“Access to sustainable, affordable electricity represents a crucial step toward fueling economic development in off-grid communities that need it the most,” Roger Ford, ADP’s global lead, told Sustainable Brands. “Not only does it provide a cornerstone for economic activity and reduce costs in the short term, it enables the connectivity of communities, banding them together to strengthen businesses, create employment and build new ventures that drive the local economy for years to come.”

Part of the Connectivity, Electricity and Education for Entrepreneurship (CE3) program that trains residents of developing areas with IT and leadership skills, the ADP model catalyzes local economic development in rural communities.

It is a transformational, self-sustaining energy model with three primary objectives:

A successful pilot project in Uganda led ADP to conduct a full-scale CE3 project in South Africa.

The consortium reported recently that a mere seven-and-a-half months into the two-year project, forecasts and results indicate that the model has been able to achieve operational sustainability from day one, as well as recover some capital expenditure. In addition to enabling the development of new businesses, the program has also contributed heavily to the growth of existing businesses and created local jobs.

“Above all, our goal with the CE3 initiative is to create an economic model for off-grid electrification that is not only sustainable, but scalable and replicable to communities across sub-Saharan Africa,” Ford told us. “The CE3 model not only supports clean power generation, but also empowers populations with the resources and skills they need to effectively leverage the resulting power to drive sustainable growth through the creation of new jobs and entrepreneurial business. When populations are equipped with the tools they need to succeed, the resulting ripple effect can be extremely powerful.”

For example, one solar-powered microgrid in South Africa provides power for irrigation equipment, while a larger solar facility powers a pack house where local farmers consolidate yields and process and package harvested crops. This reduces the farmers’ overall burden of labor and operating costs, and enables the farmers’ cooperative to achieve crop yields large enough to supply commercial buyers.

Accenture has supported CE3 with more than $2.3 million since 2012 through its corporate citizenship initiative, Skills to Succeed.

The NDIGD, part of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, is focused on the challenges of building just and equitable societies and promoting development and human dignity worldwide.

“Our work with Accenture and The Rural Development Company in Africa is a model for excellence that delivers social, economic and environmental impact,” Scott Appleby, dean of the Keough School, said in a statement. “Teaming with the private sector to foster economic and human development is a priority for NDIGD and the Keough School.”

As the program is scaled, Accenture and NDIGD are installing two additional solar microgrids in Northern Uganda that will power local schools, businesses and CE3 business incubation centers. Transitioning communities to renewable power will have the added benefit of reducing their dependence on costly and polluting diesel fuel and kerosene; as well as biomass, which is commonly used as cooking fuel in off-grid areas - greatly reducing use of all three also helps decrease health risks from fires and smoke inhalation.

The initiative supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #7, to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and clean energy for all. ADP's work also supports analysis released last month by Accenture Strategy, which points to the vital role that deploying an array of digital solutions in the developing world to improve the quality of people’s lives, achieve equitable growth and protect the environment will play in helping to achieve all 17 SDGs.