Desert To Solar Program Aims To Expand Solar In African Sahel Region

The African Development Bank, the Green Climate Fund, and the Africa50 investment fund signed a letter of intent on the sidelines of annual meetings late May that will see the three international organizations collaborate on the Desert to Power Program, an initiative aimed at developing solar throughout the Sahel region of Africa.

The Sahel region of Africa is located between the Sahara Desert to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south. The Desert to Power Program thus seeks to make use of this massive swathe of territory to develop 10,000 megawatts (MW) worth of solar energy to provide electricity to 250 million people — including for 90 million off-grid.

Announced on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the African Development Bank, the agreement between the three organizations will not only seek to develop significant amounts of solar energy but will also look to stabilize and protect the Great Green Wall of trees that exist as a buffer against desertification, ensuring they won’t be cut down by energy-poor households.

“The Desert to Power programme will transform countries in the Sahel region by accelerating their access to energy through solar power,” explained African Development Bank’s President, Akinwumi Adesina. “To realize this ambition, strong collaboration is needed. Therefore the partnership with the Green Climate Fund and Africa 50 is a great milestone and will help us deliver at scale.”

Adesina added that, with the support from the Green Climate Fund and Africa50, as well as significant investment from the private sector, the Sahel region has the potential to become the world’s largest source of solar power.

“Sahel countries have identified the potential of solar power to bring green energy to people across the region,” said GCF Executive Director, Howard Bamsey. “Renewable energy investment is a priority in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement,” he added, referring to the action plans national governments are developing to tackle climate change.

“Africa50 is about leveraging partnerships to contribute to the continent’s growth through developing and funding high impact private and PPP infrastructure projects,” added Alain Ebobissé, CEO of Africa50. “This agreement allows us to leverage our project development capabilities and build a bigger pipeline of bankable projects that will provide millions of people and businesses on the continent with clean and affordable energy.”