We sadly need to inform that Sabera Khan (1971-2021), who worked as a Senior Expert and Liaison Manager for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) supporting the implementation of the BGFA Programme and a strong supporter of the clean energy access in Africa, unexpectedly passed away on 13 August 2021 following a long struggle with Covid-19.
Sabera had more than 20 years of experience in sub-Saharan Africa in the fields of carbon markets, climate change, clean technologies, energy and finance. She possessed almost preternatural strategic vision to accompany the experience, knowledge, and commitment she wielded toward the development of clean energy markets and the uplifting of the poor and vulnerable in her country and the region.
She was at her most passionate when speaking of her Zambian grandmother in a small village in Northern Province, living still in 2021 without electricity, clean cooking, connectivity or other trappings of modern domestic life. Born in Zambia to South African parents of Indian descent, Sabera Kahn would become a champion of Zambia’s rural poor, bringing a combination of financial acumen, political savvy and sheer force of will to bear in ensuring that her grandmother – not her grandmother by blood or birth, but every Zambian’s grandmother – would not be forgotten by the city-dwellers, development workers and others with whom she worked on energy access programmes for the country.
Sabera was part of the core team that designed and executed of the Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia (BGFZ), an energy access programme funded by Sweden and implemented by REEEP, aiming to bring clean, affordable, and reliable off-grid energy access to 1 million Zambians in rural and peri-urban areas. Sabera was a consummate ambassador for the programme and its Zambian hosts and beneficiaries, representing BGFZ in events across Africa and elsewhere, including at the Ashden Awards in London, where the programme was awarded in 2019. Her work continued with the establishment of the Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa by the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (Nefco) in her role as Senior Expert and Liaison Manager where she was instrumental in scaling up the initiative.
In her day-to-day work, Sabera took charge of facilitating Zambia’s Off-Grid Energy Taskforce (OGTF), where she spent countless hours liaising between the Ministry of Energy and Office of the Vice President, and between private energy service companies, investors, development financiers and diplomats representing a broad spectrum of the climate and sustainable development space. She was not only a leading expert in clean energy and climate finance in Zambia and Southern Africa, but also an exceptionally committed and talented networker and facilitator. With this background, she managed to thoughtfully convene all relevant representatives from the government (related to energy, rural development, agriculture and livelihood), donors and the private sector. The OGTF has meanwhile become an internationally renowned stakeholder engagement mechanism in the access to energy space in Africa. Since its launch in April 2018, the OGTF has – with strong support from Sabera – successfully facilitated a VAT exemption for LED lights, the drafting of a new national mini-grid policy and the initiation of discussions to improve the affordability of off-grid energy solutions.
Sabera was a true friend and a loving wife and mother, and behind her strong and dedicated personality was an idealistic and sensitive person. She trusted and believed in the honesty of people and their spirit and capability to change things for the better. And she believed in a mission: to create the capacity, environment and momentum necessary for mitigating the negative effects of climate change and boosting economic development in her country.