Sahel heads of state at a Summit on Friday in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, gave strong support to Desert to Power, an Africa Development Bank led initiative.
The summit, “Harnessing solar energy for the socio-economic development of the G5 Sahel countries” came on the heels of a high-level technical meeting attended by the region’s energy ministers, and development partners including the World Bank, and regional institutions such as the West African Economic and Monetary Union and ECOWAS.
Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Executive Chairman of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, participated in the high-level meeting and endorsed the initiative.
Addressing journalists, the 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.
“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” Kabore said at a joint press conference hosted with the President of the African Development Bank Group, Akinwumi Adesina, after the Summit.
The goal of Desert to Power is to propel the Sahelian economies to higher growth and prosperity.
Adesina outlined the initiative’s ambitions of providing 10,000 MW of solar-generated electricity to 250 million people across the Sahel.
“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,” Adesina said.
“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,” he urged.
G5 Sahel heads of state 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.
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 African Developmemnt Bank, will be set up to improve legal and institutional frameworks, to ensure that priority in energy provision is 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 Desert to Power initiative covers 11 countries: Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Djibouti, Senegal and Chad and is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement and the Renewable Energy Initiative for Africa.
“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,” Adesina said.