Desert to Power secures $300 million of public money


Five Francophone African nations in the ambitious Desert to Power initiative have had a funding shot in the arm from a donor organization.

The Desert to Power G5 Sahel grouping of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger have secured a $300 million commitment by the publicly funded Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) to back their participation in the 10 GW plan. Announcing the development last week, however, project backer the African Development Bank (AfDB) indicated that the PIDG pledge was indicative and non-binding.

The Desert to Power initiative was announced by the AfDB in 2018. It aims to install 10 GW of solar power capacity plus energy storage across 11 nations in the Sahel, also including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Djibouti, and Senegal.

The project organizers have stressed the need to attract private-sector backing for the plan, having secured initial pledges from the G-7 group of leading industrialized nations and with a further $150 million promised by the UN's Green Climate Fund in October. The latest funding promise came on the margins of the Africa Energy Forum in Brussels in June.

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However, PIDG is funded by International Finance Corp.p – the private-sector arm of the World Bank – and the governments of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, and Germany.

PIDG's financial commitment is specifically for a funding facility that aims to help the G5 Sahel nations develop 500 MW of new solar and offer electricity to around 4 million people. The International Renewable Energy Agency estimated the G5 Sahel countries had 278 MW of grid solar capacity between them at the end of 2021, but Mali was the only one to add new capacity during the year.

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