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‘Gambia could be one of 4 countries in W/Africa to achieve universal access to electricity’

Feb 10, 2020, 12:51 PM

A World Bank team visited Banjul to take stock of progress in the energy sector since the crisis period in 2017, when the bank provided emergency assistance to the new administration towards addressing the immediate challenges.

The energy sector roadmap identified key short-term priorities to stabilise the system, and medium-term priorities including the goal to achieve universal access by 2025, and diversify the energy mix through imports and solar to reduce the cost of electricity. The roadmap, as part of the National Development Plan, helped to mobilize over $400 million in funding for the energy sector, to which the World Bank contributed $175 million (40%) through national and regional operations.

One of the key regional projects being supported by the World Bank is the OMVG Regional Interconnection Project. By interconnecting The Gambia to Senegal, Guinea and Guinea Bissau, the Project supports the goals spelled out in the roadmap.

“The OMVG interconnector is a crucial infrastructure that will enable The Gambia to access clean, reliable and affordable electricity from the West Africa Power Pool. The interconnector will also provide a backbone for the country, from which electrification activities can be done. The race is now on –The Gambia could be one of the first counties in West Africa to achieve universal access,” said Mr. Charles Cormier, the World Bank practice manager for Energy and Extractives in West Africa, during the field visit to the Brikama Substation, the landing point of OMVG for the Greater Banjul Area.

At Sate House, Mr. Charles J. Cormier recalled that when he visited The Gambia in 2017, there was crisis in the electricity sector but has observed the improvement during his current visit. He was in Banjul to take stock of all the progress registered since then.

The World Bank executive expressed delight that the number of power cuts being experienced in The Gambia today “has significantly reduced” compared to three years ago.

 “If you recall in 2017, after the change of regime, there were huge power cuts of 16 to 18 cuts per day. The availability of electricity was only 25 megawatts on a grid that has a demand of up to 100 megawatts at the time,” he recalled.

 “That is a huge improvement. I think the emergency plan was quite successful. The Gambia is among the few countries that want to achieve this target five years earlier, including Ghana, Senegal, and Cote d’Ivoire,” Mr. Cormier said.

 His Excellency, President Adama Barrow’s vision for the electricity sector is to reach universal access by 2025. In the National Development Plan (NDP 2018- 2021), energy is categorised as “a priority sector” in the context of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 2030).

 For President Barrow, besides access, there is also the issue of cost of electricity for average Gambians. The Gambia currently pays 23 cents on average, while the U.S. pays 12 cents on average for electricity. This pricing also impedes competitiveness of the economy if electricity is expensive, President Barrow said.