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G5 Sahel heads of state speak on the “Desert to power initiative”

The G5 Sahel heads of state recently held a summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on “Harnessing solar energy for the socio-economic development of the G5 Sahel countries”.

Under the leadership of the African Development Bank (AfDB) the Sahel region has started on a highly ambitious solar project to make it a renewable powerhouse, titled “Desert to Power (DtP) Initiative”.

According to the Inter Press Service, the Initiative aims to develop and provide 10 gigawatt (GW)  of solar energy by 2025 and supply 250 million people with green electricity. It detailed that currently, 64% of the Sahel’s population – covering Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea – lives without electricity, a major barrier to development, with consequences for education, health and business.

“A lack of energy remains as a significant impediment to Africa’s economic and social development. The project will provide many benefits to local people. It will improve the affordability of electricity for low income households and enable people to transition away from unsafe and hazardous energy sources, such as kerosene, which carry health risks,” Magdalena J. Seol said about the Initiative.

The Sahel region is represented by the G5 Sahel or G5S, which is an institutional framework for coordination of regional cooperation in development policies and security matters in west Africa. It was formed in 2014 to strengthen the bond between economic development and security, and together battle the threat of jihadist organizations operating in the region such as AQIM, MUJWA, Al-Mourabitoun and Boko Haram

Read: 5 African countries embracing solar energy

Addressing journalists at the summit, 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 G5 Sahel’s five priority areas 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.

“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,” urged Adesina.

It was also explained 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 mobilize 140 million dollars 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.

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