By Yankuba Jallow & Nelson Manneh

The Gambia has on Wednesday signed a 66 million dollars electricity expansion project with the World Bank.

The signing ceremony was held at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs on Wednesday, 6th March 2019. The project is titled the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Access Project Agreement.

The goal of the project is to benefit 152,000 households and 1.1 million people in the three participating countries and will increase electricity access rate by 2% in Guinea Bissau, 16% in Mali, and 17% in The Gambia.

The World Bank Country Director Louise Cord said: “The World Bank is committed to a long-term process aimed at boosting regional electricity access, building Regional and National capacity strengthening to support the implementation of the REAP.”

“The project’s innovation is to accelerate access through a regional approach based on common quality standards, harmonized procedures and joint procurement to achieve economies of scale,” she stressed.

The Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Mambury Njie, said the agreement is in line with the country’s National Development Plan, and it will change the lives of the rural household and reduce rural-urban migration.

He said currently, there is significant inequality in electricity access among ECOWAS countries and disparities between urban and rural areas. He cited Guinea Bissau, for example, has an access rate as low as 14.7 percent and just 4 percent in rural areas.

He told the gathering that overall, the region’s growth in access has occurred at speeds far below what is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 7, namely ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.

“Access to electricity is a crucial input and helps for the Country to realise the full potential of their human capital, and help countries achieve important health and education outcomes, as electricity is an important enabler to those objectives,” said Pedro E. Sanchez, Lead Energy Specialist for the World Bank.

In 1999, ECOWAS established the West African Power Pool (WAPP) to integrate national power systems into a regional electricity market. This approach was based on the benefits of optimizing energy resources across the region by generating a regional mechanism for the opportunity to both capitalize on large-scale generation plants designed to support multiple countries and trade power to maximize availability and minimize cost.  ECOWAS’ agenda aims at expanding on-grid access and ensuring its sustainability.

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