Washington - World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Tuesday said Africa's people have been denied electricity by what amounts to a global “energy apartheid”.

“Today the combined energy usage of the billion people in Africa equals what Belgium offers to its 11 million residents,” Kim said in a speech on the Bank's anti-poverty fight.

“This is a form of energy apartheid that we must tackle if we are serious about helping African countries grow and create opportunities for all Africans.”

Kim used the criticism to explain the Bank's newest large project in Africa, a $73 million grant to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help begin development of the 4 800-megawatt Inga 3 hydroelectric project.

The Inga site overall has the potential to generate 40 gigawatts of power, Kim noted, equal to half of all the current power generation capacity in sub-Saharan Africa today.

“We need this power desperately in Africa,” he said in the speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

According to Bank data, some 1.2 billion people around the world live without electricity, one-third of them concentrated in five Asian and African countries.

Sapa-AFP