Three Questions to Wale Shonibare, Acting VP, Power, Energy, Climate & Green Growth

Sep 13 2019 - The Desert to Power initiative is an ambitious and innovative partnership-driven initiative of the African Development Bank to transform the Sahel and Sahara region through the deployment of solar technologies, at scale, in eleven countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan.

Bank Achievements in Energy:

78% of Bank financing is focused on infrastructure. Of the $1.05 billion investments in support of power generation projects, 95% is for renewable energy. Between otal Bank energy commitments reached $4.6 billion, over $1.5 billion per year.

In 2018, 90% of Bank projects were based on climate-informed designs, and $306 million was raised from climate finance funds (GCF, GEF, CIF and other bilateral sources)

More than $76 million has been committed by the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa(SEFA) to provide access to over 1.6 million people and generate 690 megawatts of renewable energy. SEFA is currently changing to a Special Fund to be able provide concessional finance and technical assistance to support the penetration and scale-up of renewable energy.

A $500 million Facility for Energy Inclusion designed to close funding gaps in the small-scale energy infrastructure sector, mitigate key credit and local currency risks, and catalyze growth in last-mile energy access solutions.

Launch of the Africa Energy Portal (, a new website designed to become a one-stop-shop for all data, news and information on the African energy sector by providing up-to-date data and statistics to investors, policymakers, and researchers in order to address the data-gap issue in the African energy sector.

Launch of the Africa Energy Marketplace, a live platform created and hosted by the Bank that brings governments, private Sector, and development partners together to drive policy dialogue, accelerate reforms and attract private investments in the African energy sector.
Desert to Power proposes to deliver access to electricity to about 250 million people and to develop up to 10 GW of solar generation capacity through a combination of on-grid and off-grid projects.  The initiative is critical in the Bank’s efforts to contribute to the realization of the High 5s, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative.

Desert to Power is implemented in partnership with various financial and technical partners, such as the Agence Française de Développement, Africa 50, the Green Climate Fund, MASEN and GOGLA, among others.


What is the focus of the Desert to Power initiative in the G5 Sahel?

The Bank has placed an initial focus on the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), targeting a 1.1 GW increase in generation capacity and the 60 million people who currently lack access to electricity in the region.

The Bank has identified five priority action areas for the G5 Sahel. One, expand utility-scale solar generation capacity, two, extend and strengthen the power transmission network, three, accelerate electrification through decentralized energy solutions, four, revitalize national power utilities; and five, improve the business climate for increased private sector investments. Capacity building is a cross-cutting component of this initiative, in order to reinforce the impact of mobilized resources. At the G5 Summit, the Bank will request the support of the G5 Sahel leaders and partners to progress with realization of these priorities.

I am delighted that this G5 summit is taking place in Burkina Faso, which is home to the first project developed under the Desert to Power initiative:  the Yeleen Rural Electrification Project, which is a multi-million-dollar investment by the African Development Bank, in partnership with the European Union and the Green Climate Fund.


What is unique and transformative about the Desert to Power initiative? What are its expected impacts?

The Desert to Power initiative presents tremendous potential for transformative impact.  By enabling the region to harness its solar potential – which is the highest in the world – for sustainable social and economic development, the Desert to Power initiative would ultimately create the largest solar zone in the world.

That said,  Desert to Power is not just about energy: it is also about the impact that energy has on the social and economic development of the region, from enhanced agricultural practices for productive use and food security, to upgraded manufacturing value chains, more opportunities for youth employment, and sustainable mitigation actions to combat desertification.

For example, the Yeleen project will use decentralized photovoltaic solar systems to generate 22.6MW through a network of 100 mini power plants, or mini-grids, and turnkey units. In addition to supplying electricity to 100,000 households for 16 hours a day, the project will create over 700 jobs and impact agriculture, entrepreneurship, and industry.

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