How Mali is reviving its ailing power sector


Mali is working hard at ensuring increased access to electricity in the country where power is accessible to only about 17 percent of the population, one of the lowest in Africa.

The west African nation signed a 30-year concession agreement with Kenié Energie Renouvelable, a subsidiary of Eranove Group, a major pan-African player in the electricity and water sectors. Under the agreement, the Group will finance, develop, build and operate the Kenié hydro-electric dam located in Baguinéda on the Niger River, 35km east of the capital, Bamako. The deal makes Mali the latest African nation that is shifting focus to effectively exploiting the potential of renewable energy on the continent.

Hydropower is the world’s largest source of renewable energy. It currently accounts for a fifth of global electricity. If water is harnessed responsibly, it can help to take electricity access to millions of people who currently lack access. Mali is expecting to add 42MW from the Kenié hydro-electric facility to its installed power capacity of approximately 414MW, which covers only half of potential demand.

“And we mustn’t forget micro and pico hydro-electricity either. These small hydro-electric facilities can supply power to villages or groups of villages in remote areas far away from interconnected transmission systems. Hydro-electricity is a renewable and competitive source of power in terms of production costs, and could even play a role in the financial balancing of power sectors and in meeting demand. This would prove hugely beneficial both for local populations and for regional industrial development,” said Marc Albérola, CEO of the Eranove Group in a statement by the company.

Rural electrification in Africa is very low at less than 10 percent. Mali is already working on this with Électricité de France (EDF), which in conjunction with ADEME, has created a Society for Decentralized Services (SDS), aimed at offering energy services to be supported by a local law firm. SDS has only one mission; it is electrifying 20 villages in the French-speaking African nation, using low and medium-voltage micro-stations that could be supplemented by diesel and solar energy. The new agreement with Kenié Energie Renouvelable further shows the commitment of Mali to ensuring energy-sufficiency as one of the poorest countries in the world works towards improving its fortunes.

According to the current project schedule, construction of the Kenié hydro-electric dam is due to begin in 2016 and the dam would become operational in 2020. It will then be operated under a concession agreement by Kenié Energie.

The project is supported by Emerging Capital Partners (ECP), a pan-African leader in private equity investment that has raised more than $2.5 billion in assets for the continent.

About 400 gigawatts of hydro potential remains undeveloped in sub-Saharan Africa. This is enough to quadruple the continent’s existing installed capacity of 80 GW. Although hydropower offers great opportunities, the World Bank notes that it also brings with it challenges such as resettlement of communities, flooding of large areas of land, and significant changes to river ecosystems.

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