Africa needs renewable power for Great Green Wall to work, AfDB head says

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Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, attends a meeting of the 2020 African Economic Outlook report in Abidjan, Ivory Coast January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

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DAKAR, Nov 4 (Reuters) - For Africa's Great Green Wall project to succeed in stopping desert advancement, local people need sustainable power so they do not cut down the trees that make up the desert barrier, the head of the continent's development bank said on Thursday.

The African Union initiative has started to plant trees, invest in agriculture and create sustainable ecosystems. When complete, it will stretch across an 8,000-kilometer-long (5,000-mile-long) and 15-kilometer-wide strip from Senegal to Djibouti.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has committed $6.5 billion towards the wall, which the United Nations estimates will cost $33 billion. Billionaire Jeff Bezos pledged $1 billion to it this week.

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AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate summit in Glasgow that it was key to link the Great Green Wall project with access to clean energy.

"If there is no electricity in the Sahel, and the levels are very, very low right now, that whole wall is nothing more than a pack of charcoal and fuel wood waiting to be cut down," Adesina said.

He said the bank was linking its $20 billion Desert-to-Power solar initiative, which seeks to provide power to 250 million people in the Sahel region by 2025, to the Great Green Wall.

Doing so "will save encroachment on the wall," Adesina said. Otherwise "people will just go cut it down because they don't have access to electricity."

The communities currently rely wood and charcoal for fuel, which add carbon to the atmosphere.

Adesina said the bank has mobilised $1.2 billion of around $2 billion needed for a component of the solar project in Niger, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. This would develop 2 GW of electricity generation for 3.5 million people.

The $1.2 billion includes funding announced on Thursday in Glasgow of $16.33 million by Sweden and $100 million by France.

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Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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