The African Development Bank has launched the Desert to Power Programme in order to transform countries in the Sahel region by accelerating their access to energy through solar power. The objective of the Programme is to develop 10,000 MW of solar energy across 11 countries in the region and to change the Sahel into the world's largest solar power zone. Access to clean energy can consequently alleviate rural poverty and youth unemployment whilst boosting the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The Programme will be supported by the Green Climate Fund and Africa 50 investment fund.

Energy is considered to be a key enabler for sustainable development – from expanding access to electricity, to improving clean cooking fuels, from reducing wasteful energy subsidies to curbing deadly air pollution that each year prematurely kills millions around the world. According to International Energy Agency, more than 670 million people are projected to be without electricity access in 2030, especially in the Sahel region.

In particular, the Desert to Power Programme is expected to provide solar generated electricity to 250 million people, including 90 million through off grid solutions. The countries that are part of the initiative include Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Senegal, and Sudan.

Howard Bamsey, GCF executive director, said: “Sahel countries have identified the potential of solar power to bring green energy to people across the region. Renewable energy investment is a priority in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.” In this context, the Desert to Power Programme can significantly contribute African countries to meeting their energy and climate plans. For instance, Sudan has announced a plan to increasing electric accessibility by 13% each year until 2025.

African Development Bank’s President Akinwumi A. Adesina welcomed Green Climate Fund’s and Africa 50’s support to the initiative: “The Desert to Power programme will transform countries in the Sahel region by accelerating their access to energy through solar power. To realize this ambition, strong collaboration is needed. Therefore, the partnership with the Green Climate Fund and Africa50 is a great milestone and will help us deliver at scale.”