Africa: solar power and Indian bilateral trade key routes to prosperity, says AfDB president

The potential for solar power to transform the economies of numerous African nations has long been known, with African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina praising the technology’s central role in helping to boost Africa-India trade over the past few years.

The president, speaking ahead of the AfDB Annual Meetings tp be held later this month, said that bilateral trade between Africa and India is set to double to $100 billion in 2018. Adesina outlined the anticipated role that the India-led International Solar Alliance (ISA) will play in helping to bring about this trade growth, while also touching on the bank’s commitments to supporting solar power.

“You can’t develop in the dark,” said Adesina. “645 million Africans are currently without electricity. A special area in which I hope Africa and India will work together is under the ISA. Both are blessed with sunshine, and we have to use this solar energy to power our economies.”

The AfDB will invest $12 billion in Africa’s power sector over the next five years, while leveraging an additional $45 to $50 billion from various other sources, including the Exim Bank of India, which extended a $10 billion line of credit to the India-Africa Forum in 2015.

With such support, Adesina said that Africa could generate 11 terrawatts of solar power. “We need to light up Africa. We want to connect 130 million people to the grid, 75 million people to off-grid systems… and a lot of that is going to be via solar power.”

One fund the AfDB has set up is the Facility for Energy Inclusion, which will use $500 million in funding to support small- and medium-scale businesses operating in Africa’s off-grid renewable sector. “Through this fund we will invest anywhere between $3-30 million in companies that are setting up projects with a capacity to generate below 30 MW of power,” said Adesina.

According to the AfDB, India is Africa’s fifth-largest investor, having poured $54 billion into the continent over the past 20 years.