US breaks ground on rural electrification project in Senegal

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has helped kick off a new rural electrification project in Senegal that will bring reliable power to 350,000 people, while supporting some 500 jobs in 14 U.S. states.

Yellen travelled to the site of the project, led by Illinois-based engineering firm Weldy Lamont, as part of a three-country trip to Africa that aims to expand U.S.-African ties and address challenges such as climate change, food security and debt.

The new project received technical assistance from the U.S. Power Africa initiative, capacity building through the U.S. Agency for Trade and Development, and a $102.5 million loan guarantee from the Export-Import Bank, Yellen said.

“Our goal is to further deepen our economic relationship and to invest in expanding energy access in a way that uses renewable resources spread across the continent,” she said.

Senegal has among the highest rates of electrification across Sub-Saharan Africa, between 70% and 80% but access to electricity remains far more limited in rural areas.

Such disparities can hinder opportunity for households and businesses in areas otherwise ripe for economic development, Yellen said.

The project includes an important renewable energy element with a solar grid to power 70 villages. “This groundbreaking will create a higher quality of life in many communities, and it will help Senegal’s economy grow and prosper. It will also help Senegal get one step closer to its goal of universal electricity access by 2025,” she said.

Yellen, who met women and youth entrepreneurs in Dakar on Friday, said the electrification project would allow Senegal to rely on energy sources that are within its borders, cost effective and not prone to the kind of volatility in energy prices sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She said the US Power Africa project has helped connect 165 million people to reliable electricity across Africa.

Its goal is to add at least 30,000 megawatts (MW) of cleaner and more reliable electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections by 2030.