With financial backing from the US government, solar developer Gigawatt Global Cooperatief signed a deal with the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), to build $1bn worth of renewable energy projects in the region.
The US is supporting the project through its Power Africa initiative set up in 2013 under President Barack Obama’s administration; a programme that had pledged to invest $7bn over five years. The advancement of this deal is an indication that the US Agency for International Development has retained its ability to act even though US President Donald Trump has slashed aid budgets and criticised US involvement in poverty alleviation.
The deal will help build the West Africa Power Pool, which is a unit of Ecowas. It was set up to implement this agreement and create a regional electricity system. The deal builds on an agreement inked by the US and Israel last year where the two governments pledged to work together to reduce energy poverty in Africa.
"Energy poverty can be eliminated even in smaller or less developed Ecowas states with the leverage of a regional strategy," according to Yosef Abramowitz, chief executive officer of Gigawatt Global.
Abramowitz is a leading renewables developer, controlling the Dutch-registered Gigawatt Global and Energiya Global Capital. He was a co-founder of Arava Power in Israel.
The memorandum of understanding calls for Gigawatt Global to install 800MW of solar and wind farms in West Africa, beginning with Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria and the Gambia, according to Israel’s ambassador to Nigeria, Guy Feldman.
"This memorandum of understanding signed today is a powerful metaphor to the West and the rest of Africa, which pave the way for future Israeli innovation," Feldman said.
Power Africa will be a lead source of funds for the projects and is also anticipating to bring in other development banks and investors. The funds are expected to have a split of 80% debt and 20% equity.
"Power Africa looks forward to supporting the partnership between the West African Power Pool and Gigawatt Global," said Andrew Herskowitz, a co-ordinator of Power Africa. "We are confident that a range of multilateral institutions will step up to support this sweeping endeavour."
Energiya Global will be doing the work on the ground. Project development is expected to kick off in early 2019, including feasibility studies, training courses and the signing of power purchase agreements.