Plans for 10,000 MW of solar power systems across the Sahel
By Tunde Osho
In line with its High 5 development priorities and, in particular, its agenda to Light up and power Africa, the African Development Bank plans to reach 29.3 million people in Africa with electricity by 2020.
The President of the Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, made this disclosure at the High Level Event on “New Way of Working: From Vision to Action-National, Regional and Global Dimensions” at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday.
He pledged support for the New Way of Working as “crucially important” and indicated that it requires a new way of tackling development issues.
United Nations agencies signed a “Commitment to Action” document at the World Humanitarian Summit in which they agreed on a New Way of Working in crises.
“The African Development Bank is today at the forefront of investing in renewable energy in Africa. The share of renewable energy in the Bank’s energy portfolio increased from 14% when I became President in 2015 to 100% last year,” President Adesina said.
“Our support last year alone provided 3.8 million Africans with access to electricity. And, with adequate financing, we expect to reach 29.3 million people with access to electricity between 2018 and 2020.”
The Bank President called on the UN Secretary General to join him in supporting the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility to also work differently, and step up support to co-pay for climate risk insurance for vulnerable African countries, noting that African countries, hit by climate change, are hard pressed to find funds to pay the insurance premiums.
The Bank has stepped up and will support African countries to pay for insuring themselves against catastrophic weather events that displace their public expenditures. It plans to provide US $76 million in 2018 for the payment of insurance premiums, with participating countries providing US $31.5 million and the African Risk Capacity Agency (ARC) providing US $16 million. Latest figures indicate that over 20 countries have indicated interest in participating in the Bank-supported initiative.
“An understanding of the link between environmental degradation, extreme poverty and youth unemployment is critical to a New Way of Working. Wherever these three elements are present, there is a ‘Triangle of Disaster’, in which unemployment, poverty and environmental degradation chase each other in a downward spiral to dereliction, terrorism, violence and conflict,” Adesina said.
“The African Development Bank brings this understanding to bear in its policies and programmes. Africa’s Triangles of Disaster must become ‘Triangles of Prosperity,’” replete with “jobs, wealth and environmental resilience. That is why we strongly welcome the New Way of Working initiative.”
The Bank has also committed to triple its climate financing to 40% of new approvals by 2020, and is deploying programs and actions to combat fragility and strengthen resilience.
This, the President explained, includes the Sahel region with a US $261-million program; the Horn of Africa with a $281.6-million program; and, for Lake Chad, now seriously affected by the degradation of its productive ecosystems, a US $101-million program to restore the productivity of the basin ecosystem.
The Desert to Power initiative spearheaded by the Bank aims to turn Africa’s deserts into new sources of energy, by working with partners to develop 10,000 MW of solar power systems across the Sahel. The initiative is expected to provide electricity to 250 million people, with 90 million of these provided through off-grid systems.
“We have already started with development of a 50 MW solar power system in Burkina Faso,” Adesina said, adding “The initiative will protect the Great Green Wall of trees established to protect against desertification in the Sahelian zone, from being cut down by energy-poor households for use as fuel wood. When completed, we expect this to be the largest solar power system zone in the world.”
Last year, the Bank approved a special framework program called “Say No to Famine” worth $1.14 billion. The Bank is taking a regional approach to addressing fragility, consistent with its new structure, and is using its Transition Support Facility to deliver development solutions to communities in conditions of fragility.