The International Development Association and the Clean Technology Fund have respectively unlocked $150 million as credit and a grant, and a $74,7 million contingent recovery grant to support the West African Development Bank and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)’s initiative for increased access to electricity across the region.
The Regional Off-Grid Electrification Project is led by ECOWAS’ Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and aims to increase electricity access using individual solar systems through an integrated regional model.
The project covers ECOWAS countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
“So far, only 3 percent of households in West Africa and the Sahel are served by stand-alone solar home systems, and 208 million people in the sub-region do not have access to electricity,” noted Rachid Benmessaoud, Coordinating Director for regional integration in West Africa. The project should benefit around 1,7 million people who are currently deprived of electricity or running on an unreliable supply.
Aside from increasing access to power, the project aims to boost investment and address barriers, slowing investment flowing in. Authorities hope to create a regional market for stand-alone solar systems, which show potential in West Africa and the Sahel region.
Benmessaoud added that “the new project will help adopt regional standards and regulations to establish a regional market with harmonized policies that will attract larger market players for the benefit of all participating countries.”
West-African countries are showing commitment to developing solar energy due to decreasing equipment costs and a strong will to reduce reliance on fluctuating oil prices.