Adopted in 2015, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide a roadmap for progress throughout the world over a 15-year period, identifying seventeen interconnected strategies for global prosperity. The plan’s seventh goal aims to provide reliable energy to all people: “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
This objective is perhaps most pressing in West Africa, where millions do not have access to reliable, high-quality energy. Despite sitting atop substantial reserves of natural gas, the region has the world’s lowest access rate to quality energy.
The combination of ample resources, limitless opportunity for growth, and the support of international institutions has created an appealing environment for investing in West Africa’s energy sector. Ambitious projects are underway in Senegal, as the nation is poised to both shore up its own energy needs and export energy to neighboring countries. However, opportunities abound throughout the region, particularly among French-speaking nations like Benin, Mali and Niger.
Senegal: West Africa’s Energy Hub
With a bustling capital city located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Senegal has become a hotspot for new energy projects. The most significant of these projects are taking place not in Senegal itself, but in the country’s territorial waters in the Atlantic. BP’s Greater Tortue project has progressed steadily, with the company recently agreeing to collaborate with TechnipFMC to develop a floating production storage and offloading unit on the maritime border of Senegal and Mauritania. The Greater Tortue project is expected to begin production in the early 2020s, and it could produce up to 10 million cubic tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) each year depending on the extent of the areas resources.
Senegal’s territorial riches are not limited to LNG, however, as the Senegal River offers tremendous opportunities for energy development. The 675 mile-long river forms a natural border between Senegal and Mauritania (as well as Guinea and Mali), and it is overseen by the Organisation for the Promotion of the Senegal River (OMVS). This ambitious organisation seeks to use hydropower plants and microplants to provide rural electrification; OMVS recently signed a contract with Sinohydro to construct a 294 MW hydropower plant in the Republic of Guinea. With a track record of success and a long-term vision for further construction, OMVS should offer an appealing entry point for international energy players and investors.
Widespread Renewable Energy Efforts
West Africa’s energy growth has not been limited to Senegal, as international organisations have focused their attention on developing new resources throughout the region. In February 2019, the Green Climate Fund (established through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) approved a 100 million Euro loan finance solar energy projects in six West African countries. The programme is intended to incentivise private investment in the region and promote the benefits of solar solutions. The financing project, which will support efforts in Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger and Togo, will be overseen by the West African Development Bank.
The enthusiasm of the United Nations for West African development has been matched by other national entities. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) recently pushed for increased energy integration among West African nations, a call that has been echoed by Rick Perry, the United States Secretary of Energy. The NNPC has led major oil projects in the region including the West African Gas Pipeline and Trans Sahara Gas Pipeline. Increased investment in these infrastructure projects are expected to provide widespread benefit to West Africa, mobilising economic growth and reducing unemployment.
Electricity in Burkina Faso
While Nigeria focuses on petroleum and Senegal on LNG and hydropower, Burkina Faso has worked to develop power transmission lines. The country aims to increase its electricity access rate to 80% by 2020, a monumental increase from current levels (around 20%). Burkina Faso recently secured more than 50 million Euro in funding from the European Union to construct 880 kilometers power transmission lines. The Dorsale Nord project will stretch from Nigeria to Burkina Faso’s capital of Ougadougou, and it is expected to provide 150 MW of reliable power.
Lofty goals, international interest, and major investments define the current West African energy picture. The next decade will undoubtedly see monumental progress and innovation, offering boundless opportunities for shrewd players in the energy industry.
Are you looking to make an impact on West Africa's power sector?
The 4th annual Regional Energy Summit: West Africa (RES: West Africa) will arrive for the first time in Dakar, Senegal from 10-11 October 2019. In partnership with APUA (Association of Power Utilities of Africa), the Summit will bring together over 300 investors, project leaders and utilities stakeholders to engage and present the latest developments on enhancing the energy mix within West Africa.