An African initiative to increase solar generation capacity to provide 250 million people with electricity access across Africa’s Sahel region for socio-economic development continues to attract financial support from around the world.
Launched in 2019 by the African Development Bank Group and its partners, the Desert to Power initiative is designed to make Africa a renewable power house.
Desert to Power will develop and provide 10 gigawatts of solar energy by 2030 across 11 countries where 64% of the population lives without electricity – with consequences for education, health and business. The project will positively impact Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea.
At an event held during the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, represented by its executive director for Africa, Joseph Nganga, announced $35 million in support of Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) under the initiative.
SEFA is a multi-dollar special fund created to provide catalytic finance to unlock private sector investments in renewable energy. Norway’s minister for international development, Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, announced a contribution of 300 million Norwegian kroner (around $29 million) from her government to support SEFA.
The event—organized by the African Development Bank in the Africa Pavilion at COP27 titled Desert to Power – transforming the Sahel from fragility to resilience and prosperity —brought together government ministers, development partners and private sector representatives to discuss how to facilitate private sector investments In the Sahel.
The event was an opportunity to present the Desert to Power program to potential partners and to rally investors toward its implementation.
Addressing participants, including ministers from the Sahel region, African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina emphasized the importance of electricity in ensuring security and poverty reduction.
“Desert to Power is a $20 billion initiative to do 10,000 megawatts of solar power … This will be the largest solar zone in the world and so we want to turn this into a real economic activity … one that will generate productive energy to be used by the countries across the Sahel,” Adesina said.
The African Development Bank head said the initiative had several components, including utility-scale solar generation, decentralized energy solutions, transmission and distribution, utility reform, and an efficient policy and regulatory environment to safeguard investments.
Adesina said the program would significantly contribute to climate action by protecting a Great Green Wall against desertification and other climate change impacts.
He also referred to the S1 billion US$ Sahel G5 Financing Facility approved by the Bank’s Board of Directors earlier this year which includes $150 million in concessional resources from the Green Climate Fund as a key facility to help de-risk private sector solar projects. The bank chief thanked the heads of state and ministers from the various host countries for supporting the initiative.
Minister Tvinnereim of Norway highlighted the role of renewable energy in sustainable development. “We need to make sure there is access to renewable energy and prevent old fossil emissions. To tackle the crisis in the region, we need the readiness of the governments of the region. We also need sustained access to renewable energy and the Desert to Power program developed by the African Development Bank responds to these critical issues.
President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger addressed the event via video link, reiterating his government’s support for the program. The energy ministers of Mauritania and Niger, as well as senior representatives from key Desert to Power partners—including Power Africa, the Swedish International Development Agency, the European Commission, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the Green Climate Fund, ACWA Power and MASEN—underscored their support for the initiative.
Nganga from the Global Energy Alliance said the Alliance would also support the de-risking of investment made in the Desert to Power infrastructure as well as innovative solutions that would drive the program to succeed.