G5 Sahel Heads of State have expressed their support for “Desert to Power’’, an Africa Development Bank (AfDB) initiative designed to harness solar energy for socio-economic development of member countries.
They gave the support at the G5 Sahel Heads of State Summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
In 2014, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger set up the “G5Sahel” group of countries to foster close cooperation in the region and tackle the major challenges that these countries.
According to a statement issued on Sunday, September 15, 2019 by AfDB, the high-level technical meeting was attended by the region’s energy ministers, and development partners.
The G5 Sahel President, Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso, solicited private sector support for the initiative and underscored the strategic and critical role of power provision in the Sahel region.
“The AfDB 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 mobilise the necessary funds.
“Access to electricity is key for the economic development, prosperity and security of the G5 Sahel countries,” Kabore said during a joint press conference with President of AfDB Group, Dr Akinwumi Adesina.
On his part, Adesina outlined the initiative’s target of providing 10,000 MW of solar-generated electricity to 250 million people across the Sahel.
According to him, the goal of Desert to Power initiative 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.
“If the Sahel is blessed with this super abundant natural resource, it simply means God intended for us to have electricity 100 per cent through the sun.
“It is, therefore, time to turn the Sahel’s largest natural resource into the most powerful driver of its growth and prosperity,” Adesina said.
The G5 Sahel Heads of State acknowledged that limited energy access and dependence on fossil fuel underscored the necessity of an energy shift and the need to accelerate economic development of the region.
They pointed out that five priority areas for the G5 Sahel included expanded utility-scale solar generation capacity, extending and strengthening power transmission networks and accelerating electrification through decentralized energy solutions.
Others are revitalising national power utilities and improving business climates for increased private sector investments.
They also said that a joint task force and a coordination unit would be hosted by the bank to improve legal and institutional frameworks to ensure that priority in energy provision was given to rural communities.
“Donor and development partners were asked to help mobilise $140 million for the initiatives project preparation phase.
“Desert to Power has already galvanized huge political support at the global level during the recent G7 Summit in Biarritz, France,’’ the statement said.
The Desert to Power initiative covers 11 countries: Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Djibouti, Senegal and Chad.
By Ikenna Uwadileke