Egypt’s Benban park, a 37 square kilometre solar park in Aswan desert with over seven million photovoltaic panels, has received $4 billion in funding from thirty international infrastructure developers. Among the investors is infrastructure fund Africa50, established by the African Development Bank.
The solar energy potential in Egypt, a country known for year-round sunny days, has long tempted investors. But the high cost of solar plants put investment in renewable energy out of reach in places like Egypt. However, as prices for solar energy components have fallen, projects like Benban have been able to become a reality.
The Benban project aims to provide clean energy to hundreds of thousands of households and help Egypt reach its target of generating 20 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2022. Previously, 90 per cent of Egypt’s power came from fossil fuels.
According to the African Development Bank, Benben has put Egypt on the map as a major solar player in Africa and has set a precedent for using North Africa’s ample solar resources to provide power while meeting climate change commitments.
‘Benban is a good example of how we use early stage project development expertise and financing to rapidly bring projects to financial close and then add equity to encourage broader financing,’ said Alain Ebobissé, Africa50 CEO. ‘Benban is also the first of our dozen active projects to become fully operational and is now delivering clean energy to Egyptian people and businesses.’
Africa50 focuses on high-impact projects mostly in the energy and transport sectors. The investment vehicle contributes to Africa’s growth by developing and investing in bankable projects, aiming to catalyse the public sector capital and mobilise private sector funding. It has a 25 per cent stake in Benban’s investment. It sees the project as a demonstration of Africa50’s ability to help narrow Africa’s infrastructure gap.