Niger, a West African country, faced a severe energy crisis after its neighbour Nigeria cut off its electricity supply following a coup in July 2023.
Nigeria was the main source of power for Niger, providing 70% of its electricity needs. The sudden loss of power caused frequent blackouts and disrupted the lives and businesses of millions of Nigeriens.
But Niger had a backup plan: a mega solar power plant that was built by a French consortium and inaugurated just a few days before the coup.
The plant, which has over 55,000 solar panels and can generate 30 megawatts of electricity, was connected to the national grid in August 2023, after some technical delays due to the political situation.
The solar power plant has significantly improved the power supply in Niger’s capital, Niamey, and other key towns, according to Niger’s Energy Minister, Mahaman Moustapha Barke. He said that the technical staff who stayed behind after the coup made the completion of the project possible.
The solar power plant is a milestone for Niger, which has one of the lowest electrification rates in the world, with only 15% of its population having access to electricity. The plant is also a symbol of Niger’s ambition to become a leader in renewable energy in Africa, as it aims to increase its solar capacity to 200 megawatts by 2025.
However, the solar power plant is not without its challenges. The French Embassy in Mali, which oversees Niger, warned of operational risks and said that the project could not be finalized under the conditions initially planned.
The embassy did not elaborate on the nature of the risks, but it is likely that they are related to the security and stability of the country under the military junta.
Niger’s coup also had other negative consequences for its economy and development. The World Bank suspended its disbursements to the country, except for private-sector partnerships, until further notice.
The border closure between Nigeria and Niger also threatened the trade between the two countries, which was worth $226.34 million annually.