African Development Fund Board has approved a $5.5 million technical assistance grant for the rollout of the flagship Desert to Power initiative in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Known as the East Africa Regional Energy Project, it will be financed through the ADF-15 replenishment Regional Public Good window of the African Development Fund, the concessional arm of the African Development Bank Group.
In a statement on April 11, the AfDB said the project would develop technical studies for regional solar parks and associated battery storage near regional energy interconnectors, high-voltage cables that connect the electricity systems of neighboring 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,” the statement said.
IGAD Executive Secretary Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, said the Desert to Power project is timely, especially in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, which 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,” Dr Gebeyehu said.
The East Africa Regional Energy Project follows on the approval by the ADF Board of Directors 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 AfDB.
It aims to accelerate socioeconomic development through the deployment of solar technologies at scale in the 11 countries of the Sahel region.
These are Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.
Acting Director of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Department of the African Development Bank Dr Daniel Schroth said the approval of the 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,” Dr Schroth said.
Desert to Power will add 10 GW of solar generation capacity and provide electricity to around 250 million people in the 11 Sahel countries by 2030.
This is in line with one of the AfDB’s High 5 strategic priorities — Light up and power Africa.