Banga calls energy access a ‘human right’ as he announces World Bank will provide access for 250 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030

3 July 2024

During a flagship event at the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings in April, World Bank President Ajay Banga stated “electricity is a human right.” Following this statement, Banga announced that he will make access to energy in Sub-Saharan Africa a top priority through a new World Bank commitment to provide energy access to 250 million people in the region by 2030.

Explicit mention of human rights obligations has long been a taboo subject at the World Bank, with UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty Philip Alston remarking in 2015 that, “For most purposes, the World Bank is currently a human rights-free zone. In its operational policies, in particular, it treats human rights more like an infectious disease than universal values and obligations.”

In 2023, civil society groups called for the World Bank’s Evolution Roadmap process to include the creation of a holistic human rights policy, and will closely monitor how the new commitment is operationalised.

“I hope that under the leadership of Ajay Banga, the World Bank can ensure the Evolution Roadmap process is truly a developmental evolution for the World Bank, enabling it to effectively meet the current economic crisis through the adoption of a human rights-based approach that effectively contributes to the institution’s new mission and vision”, said Attiya Waris, the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt, other international financial obligations and human rights. “In this respect, the Bank’s plan for achieving this new institutional energy access goal will be an important signal…hopefully protecting the other human rights of people affected by this.”