Burkina Faso is expected to dramatically improve the lives of its residents by 2011 after receiving a US$38 million loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to improve access to electricity for nearly 800,000 people.
The AfDB loan will fund the “Electricity Infrastructure Strengthening and Rural Electrification Project” and comes at a critical time for the population of Burkina Faso, one of the world’s least developed countries.
The AfDB notes that demand for electricity in this landlocked country is growing at a rate of 10% annually, at the same time that Burkina Faso is struggling to develop new energy sources. With the help of the AfDB and a cooperative agreement known as the West African Power Pool, the country’s electrical grid will be connected to the grids of its neighbours Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Those two countries, which border the sea and have easier access to sources of electricity, will be the main conduits for the increased supply of power in Burkina Faso.
Valentin Zongo, a financial analyst in the Energy and ICT Division of the Infrastructure Department at the AfDB, says, “Land-locked countries in the region have no fossil fuels for the production of electricity and therefore pooling of regional resources is key to achieving their energy sector objectives.”
For the time being, investment in existing electrical technologies is necessary to continue development because, as Zongo puts it, “Without this cooperation, boosting electricity supply in Burkina Faso would be difficult until reliable and cost effective technologies enable a large scale harnessing of the abundant solar energy.”
Once the project in Burkina Faso is completed, access to electricity should become much more consistent for the population. Currently, the Burkinabe find energy from a varied supply of sources, many of which are more expensive than electric provided on a grid system. Increased energy provisions will also help the government make progress in achieving globally-recognised development needs, including access to water and health care. AfDB claims that once the Burkina Faso grid is connected, economic activity will increase and encourage more business development.
Zongo says that the social benefits of the programme will be visible by 2011, and that the state energy provider, Sonabel, is fast-tracking the project to make sure it begins to show positive effects as quickly as possible. The full cooperation of multiple partners like the government and the West African Power Pool is allowing the process to proceed as planned, and the AfDB is maintaining a supervisory ground presence through the construction and implementation of the new electrical grids.
The cooperation of government entities like Sonabel is indicative of a larger national dedication to improving the lives of the Burkinabe. The government was involved in the development of the power project, and is actively working to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the international benchmarks for eradicating poverty and boosting development.
With a growing population and demand for electricity, Burkino Faso needs assistance like the AfDB loan to finance projects which improve its economy. As Zongo put it, “Without the project, the improved electricity supply situation of the country would not have resulted in a greater access for the population.”
A MediaGlobal Article