The Board of Directors of the African Development Fund has approved a $5.5 million technical assistance grant to kick-start the roll-out of the flagship Desert to Power initiative in the Eastern Sahel region countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan.
The East Africa Regional Energy Project follows on the approval by the Board of Directors of the African Development Fund (ADF) of the West Africa Regional Energy Project, in July 2021. The Desert to Power programme is a flagship renewable energy and economic development initiative led by the African Development Bank (AfDB). It is meant to accelerate socio-economic development through the deployment of solar technologies at scale in the 11 countries of the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan).
Known as the East Africa Regional Energy Project, the programme will be financed through the ADF-15 Regional Public Good window of the ADF, the concessional arm of the AfDB. The project will develop technical studies for regional solar parks and associated battery storage near regional energy interconnectors and high-voltage cables that connect the electricity systems of neighbouring countries.
The initiative will also strengthen the technical capacity of the implementing agency, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a trade bloc that includes governments from the Horn of Africa, Nile Valley and the Great Lakes region.
IGAD Executive Secretary, Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, said the Desert to Power project is timely in this post-COVID-19 era, clearly highlighting the importance of reliable energy services. “It has also come at a time when IGAD is planning to take its Regional Infrastructure Master Plan in the energy sector to real implementation. It is an important milestone in addressing renewable energy investment gaps in the region, and will reduce the adverse effects of climate change and diversify the energy mix leading to energy security.”
Dr Daniel Schroth, Acting Director of the AfDB’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency department: “The approval of this regional technical assistance programme will accelerate the roll-out of the Desert to Power initiative in the eastern Sahel. As a result, the region will move one step closer to harnessing its tremendous solar energy potential to spur accelerated economic and social development.”
Desert to Power will ultimately add 10GW of solar generation capacity and provide electricity to around 250 million people in the 11 Sahelian countries by 2030. This is in line with one of the AfDB’s High 5 strategic priorities, namely Light up and power Africa.