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“Energy poverty” in Africa is estimated to cost the continent 2%-4% of GDP annually, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB). This is one of the reasons it is leading the Desert to Power initiative, which was outlined at the Paris Agreement climate change talks at COP24 in Katowice, Poland.

Desert to Power aims to develop and provide 10 GW of solar energy by 2025 and supply 250 million people with green electricity across the Sahel region. 64% of the Sahel’s population - covering Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea - lives without electricity.

The project has been launched in collaboration with the Green Climate Fund, a global pot of money created by the 194 countries who are party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to support developing countries adapt to and mitigate climate change. The programme is designed to combine private sector capital with blended finance.

According to the AfDB’s Magdalena J. Seol, the project will provide many benefits to local people. “It will improve the affordability of electricity for low income households and enable people to transition away from unsafe and hazardous energy sources, such as kerosene, which carry health risks.

Construction of the project will also create jobs and help attract private sector involvement in renewable energy in the region.”

She adds that at least 90 million people will be connected to electricity for the first time, lifting them out of energy poverty. “If you look at the countries that this initiative supports, they’re the ones who are very much affected by the climate change and carbon emissions from other parts of the world. Given this, the investments will have a greater effect in these regions, which have a greater demand and market opportunity in the energy sector.”

The African continent holds 15% of the world’s population, yet is poised to shoulder nearly 50% of the estimated global climate change adaptation costs, according to the Bank. These costs are expected to cut across health, water supply, agriculture, and forestry, despite the continent’s minimal contribution to global emissions.

However, the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that Africa’s renewable energy potential could put it at the forefront of green energy production globally.It is estimated to have an almost unlimited potential of solar capacity (10 TW), abundant hydro (350 GW), wind (110 GW), and geothermal energy sources (15 GW) - and a potential overall renewable energy capacity of 310 GW by 2030.

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