The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) plans a $50 billion project to boost access to modern energy services in the sub region and combat the energy short fall which is hampering the development and growth in the region.

ECOWAS has set a December 2007 target date for its 15 member states to set up a national investment programme, after which ECOWAS, along with the member states would then begin the mobilisation of the $50 billion fund for the implementation of the community investment programme.

ECOWAS Energy Division announced that the 10-year Investment Programme was aimed at meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving poverty by 2015.

Currently, only about one in three ECOWAS citizens has access to electricity and demand is expected to grow by 5% annually. This implies that member states will need to generate 17 000 megawatts by 2023. Current capacity stands at 10 000 MW. A joint ECOWAS and West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) approach towards the adoption of a regional policy for increasing access to energy services for people in rural and peri-urban populations is being explored. The UEMOA groups eight Francophone ECOWAS countries in the CFA francs monetary zone.

The investment programme is intended to raise access to modern energy services in member countries to at least 60 percent from the current average of 26 percent.

A breakdown of access by country, he said, "shows that access is as low as between three and four percent in Liberia and Sierra Leone and between 30 and 35 percent in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria."