The G5 Sahel Heads of State have endorsed the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Desert to Power initiative, a project intended to revamp the continent’s energy sector and make it a renewable power-house.
The initiative aims to develop and provide 10,000 MW of solar energy by 2025 and supply 250 million people with solar generated electricity in many developing countries across the continent, especially in the Sahel.
The Heads of State gave strong backing to the initiative, in a recent summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, themed “Harnessing solar energy for the socio-economic development of the G5 Sahel countries”, which came on the heels of a high-level technical meeting attended by the region’s energy ministers, and development partners, including the West African Economic and Monetary Union, World Bank and ECOWAS.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Executive Chairman of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, also participated in the high-level meeting and threw his weight behind the initiative.
The AfDB has rightly observed that the lack of energy remains a critical restrain to Africa’s economic and agricultural development, hence the Desert to Power initiative, whose goal is to guarantee universal access to electricity for over 60 million people through solar energy.
For the Sahel leaders, it was acknowledged that limited energy access and a dependence on fossil fuels underscores the necessity of an energy shift and the need to accelerate the economic development of the region and ensure its stability.
While addressing journalists at a joint press conference hosted with the President of the AfDB, Akinwumi Adesina, G5 Sahel President Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso urged the private sector to support the Desert to Power and underscored the strategic and critical role of power provision in the Sahel region.
He said,“The African Development Bank is our bank and the private sector must be involved in this important initiative for our countries. I have no doubt that with technical leadership of the AfDB, we will be able to mobilize the necessary funds. Access to electricity is key for the economic development, prosperity and security of the G5 Sahel countries”
As highlighted by Akinwumi Adesina, the goal of Desert to Power is to propel the Sahelian economies to higher growth and prosperity. “The African Development Bank is fully ready to work with all partners to make this Baobab of Energy a success. Your strong political support and policies to make solar energy affordable across the Sahel will be critical,”
“Generations of people in the Sahel have waited for light for too long. Generations today and in the future can wait no longer! The time for action is now. The time for Desert to Power to provide electricity for all in the Sahel is now,” Adesina said.
The Desert to Power initiative, in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement and the Renewable Energy Initiative for Africa, covers 11 countries: Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Djibouti, Senegal and Chad.
The initiative will also play a significant role in setting a sustainable agricultural development path, by ensuring enough energy for the sector and in turn improving the quality of life in rural areas and enhancing smallholding agricultural activities.
It is against this backdrop that Adesina noted, “If the Sahel is blessed with this super abundant natural resource, it simply means God intended for us to have electricity. 100% through the sun. it is, therefore, time to turn the Sahel’s largest natural resource – the sun – into the most powerful driver of its growth and prosperity. That is why we are here,”
While the AfDB has committed $20 million towards project preparation for the realization of the project, donor and development partners were also asked to help mobilise $140 million for the initiatives project preparation phase.
Five priority areas for the G5 Sahel include expanded utility-scale solar generation capacity; extending and strengthening power transmission networks; accelerating electrification through decentralized energy solutions; revitalizing national power utilities; and improving business climates for increased private sector investments.
A joint Task Force and a coordination unit, to be hosted by the AfDB will be set up to improve legal and institutional frameworks, to ensure that priority in energy provision is given to rural communities.