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.
Known as the East Africa Regional Energy Project, it will be financed through the ADF-15 Regional Public Good window of the African Development Fund, the concessional arm of the African Development Bank Group. The project will develop technical studies for regional solar parks and associated battery storage near regional energy interconnectors, 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, Workneh Gebeyehu, said: ‘This Desert to Power project is timely in this post-Covid-19 era, which clearly highlighted 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 diversifying the energy mix leading to energy security.’
The East Africa Regional Energy Project follows on the approval by the Board of Directors of the African Development Fund of the West Africa Regional Energy Project, in July 2021. The Desert to Power program is a flagship renewable energy and economic development initiative led by the African Development Bank. It aims to accelerate socioeconomic 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).
Daniel Schroth, Acting Director of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Department of the African Development Bank, said: ‘The approval of this regional technical assistance program 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 10 GW 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 African Development Bank’s High 5 strategic priorities, namely Light up and power Africa.