West Africa's regional body will pool its resources to establish an electricity market to end the blackouts that have blighted its 15 member states for decades.
Heads of states who gathered for a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States agreed to develop a regional electricity market almost two decades after the plan was conceived, Etienne Bailly, project director at Transco CLSG, told Reuters at a power conference in Nigeria.
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Transco CLSG - set up by West African Power Pool (WAPP) - will develop a 1,300 km (807 miles) interconnection line across Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
"We have developed a master plan to address our energy deficit by creating a regional electricity market," the Ivorian told Reuters on the sidelines of a power conference in Nigeria's commercial hub, Lagos.
"In the next 10 years West Africa will have enough power plants, will have enough interconnection facilities," he said.
A consortium of development agencies including the World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank and German Export Bank have agreed to provide 329 million euros ($374.43 million) over 25 years for the project.
The project would involve developing additional power generation capacity and building more transmission lines across the region, Bailly said, adding more investment would be needed.
Bailly said the region currently produced 10,000 megawatts of electricity and had 4,000 km of transmission lines, but needed 26,000 megawatts of generation capacity and 16,000 km of connection lines to plug the power deficit.
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The European Union has also provided 30 million euros to help set up an information and coordination centre that would supervise the electricity market based in Benin.
Africa's biggest economy, Nigeria, broke up its monopoly on power generation and distribution by privatising the sector two years ago, in the hope that it would attract foreign investors.
But the amount of power produced has stagnated at around half total capacity.