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According to the ECOWAS Commissioner for energy and mines, Sédiko Douka,  only 40% of the population within west African region and the Sahel region have access to electricity supply.

To overcome this shortfall, on Tuesday stakeholders in the energy sector gathered at a regional workshop in Ghana's capital Accra, to develop modalities to implement the Regional Off-Grid Electrification Project (ROGEP).

ROGEP aims to enhance electricity access in West Africa and the Sahel region through standalone solar systems, including solar lanterns, solar home systems, solar water pumps and solar mills.

Vanguard quoted Douka stating that the objective of the meeting was to work out modalities for the implementation of the project.

He said: “our team at the ECOWAS Commission resumed in March and within our four-year mandate, our objective is to increase electricity access to at least 60% of the population in the region.

“We have been having several energy meetings within the energy sector and on Thursday, we will have the meeting of all ECOWAS ministers of energy.”

Douka added that the project, sponsored by the World Bank, would kick-off in 2019. Read more: ECREEE targets 35% electricity rise via renewables

He noted that the project, with an estimated overall budget of 200 million dollars, would cover 19 countries.

He listed the countries that will benefit from the project, which includes Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali and Niger.

Others include Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad and Mauritania.

Wendy Hughes, the Practice Manager, Energy and Extractive Global Practice of the World Bank Group, said that the off-grid technology would provide “real and sustainable alternative to grid electricity.”

Off-grid solar market

Hughes added that the cooperation of member countries in building “a large, unified off-grid solar market will increase access to these modern energy devices.

“Adopting common quality standards for solar off-grid products that are uniform across the entire region will in effect create a single large market that will be far more attractive to private solar companies.”

Mahama Kappiah, the executive director of ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), said modalities had been worked out to train local entrepreneurs in the energy sector to ensure ownership of the project and affordable energy for member states.

Kappiah said: “One way we are trying to make energy affordable through this project is using our local entrepreneurs, not foreign entrepreneurs or those who call themselves expatriates and pay themselves very high salaries.

“We are also providing finance to these entrepreneurs and for the first phase, we have 140 million dollars as credit line that will go to these local entrepreneurs which they can contract through the commercial banks at very low interest rate.”