China- Zambia-UNDP Trilateral Cooperation on Renewable Energy

The Challenge

Zambia’s electrification is concentrated in its capital Lusaka and other large cities. Zambia has concentrated its efforts on providing electricity to these urban areas mainly through Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO), its state owned Power Company. Lusaka, enjoys approximately 80% electrification, with other large cities having electrification rates of less than 50%. Most of rural Zambia, however, is not connected to the national grid and hence only 3% of the rural population has access to electricity

Zambia has the second largest potential for solar power in the world, currently virtually unused, and an abundance of rivers and water resources in rural areas. Building on this potential, solar- and hydro power are identified as the most appropriate renewable energy technologies for Zambia

The Response

Through the pilot project, UNDP together with the national counterparts aim at showing concrete solutions for rural electrification in Zambia through technology transfer and South-South Cooperation. The project will involve a wide range of stakeholders, from the private sector to research institutions, and create communities of practice in the sphere of renewable energy in Zambia and China that will facilitate project implementation and continued cooperation beyond the project.

The enhanced effort, represented by this programme, to implement renewable, off-grid energy solutions will be a significant contribution to achieving Zambia’s goal of 50% electrification of rural households by 2030.

The response builds firmly on a trilateral setup where all parties play an active role and draw learning from the cooperation. China has concrete experience and technical knowledge in the renewable energy sector, whilst they need to build project management capabilities and approach to south-south cooperation. Ghana and Zambia both have a gap in electrification of especially rural areas, whilst these countries have unique insight into local context, including productive uses of energy and experience with past electrification projects that can be shared between the two countries. UNDP plays a facilitating, coordinating and oversight role between and for the implementing agencies and contributes with its project management and learning process tools. 

Expected Achievements and Outcome

  • Strengthen the enabling environment for the transfer and use of priority renewable technologies in Zambia
  • Remove market barriers to the adoption of renewable technologies for the rural poor in Zambia
  • Invigorate the Chinese capacity for South – South Cooperation on renewable energies


Denmark provides financing to the programme. Denmark is increasingly focused on South-South Cooperation, to enable better and more coherent cooperation between China and countries in Africa, in particular around the promotion of the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4ALL).

The trilateral cooperation programme has been developed alongside a similar programme between China-UNDP-Ghana, which is also funded by Denmark.

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