Solar energy, a promising niche in Senegal


In West Africa, access to electricity remains scarce, because many countries are dependent on costly fossil fuels. Faced with this challenge, Senegal has recently launched a vast solar energy production programme by implementing projects aiming to diversify, increase and better its energy capacities. A goal supported by Belgium through its Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO). 

© FPS Foreign Affairs / Bio-Invest


In Senegal, as in the rest of West Africa, the access rate to electricity is at 52%, with power outages reaching up to 80 hours per month. At USD 0.25 per kilowatt hour, electricity remains expensive in the region and costs two times the average global rate.

At this price, few people can afford this basic but essential comfort in our lives, even fewer in a developing country. Yet, we must realise that daily life without electricity means, for example, not being able to preserve food in cool temperatures, not being able to use electrical equipment in one's business, not being able to connect to the internet, not being able to communicate or even study at night unless lit by a small oil lamp... This is unthinkable for us, and yet it is a reality that over one million people experience worldwide. This is the reason why, over the course of the past two decades, large investments involving national governments, the World Bank and other donors (development banks and private funds) have contributed to increasing the global electrification rate from 75 to 85%.

The solution

In Senegal, the government launched the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES) in 2017 which proposes a goal of 20% of the energy mix having renewable sources. This measure aims to cover the energy needs of the country while guaranteeing a larger number of homes access to electricity (particularly in rural areas), but also to shrink the costs of production and purchasing kilowatt hours (kWh) and to reduce dependence on the fluctuations of international markets simultaneously with CO² emissions.

Solar energy, which is still used very little in Senegal, is therefore an attractive alternative which the government has been involved with for years. According to experts in the sector, its use considerably increases the life of all electronic devices, including those with electric components, all while reducing the amount of energy bills.

 Thus over these last years, solar parks have multiplied in the country, involving investment funds and Senegalese groups or foreigners specialising in renewables. Senegal recently unveiled four solar power plants, the most advanced of which is located in the municipality of Merina Ndakhar and received funding of EUR 34.5 million allocated by the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO).

© FPS Foreign Affairs / Bio-Invest

Unveiled by President Macky Sall in October 2018, the 83-hectare site houses one of the largest solar power plants in West Africa. Named Cheikh Anta Diop after a Senegalese historian from the region, the power plant will generate enough electricity to cover the energy needs of the equivalent of more than 225,000 residents at a more competitive price than that offered by the country's thermal power stations.

This new 30 MW park is in addition to those of Senergy, established in Santhiou Mékhé, Senergy II in Bokhol, and Malicounda, located near Mbour. In terms of the environment, ‘Ten Merina Ndakhar’ will enable the diversification of energy sources in Senegal, which is still dependent 90% on fossil fuels. BIO also estimates that these solar panels will reduce CO² emissions by 33,300 tonnes each year, directly replacing production units based on fuel oils.

In economic terms, this new energy source will enable the development of the local economy in addition to earning major tax revenue for the country. The project does anticipate the construction of grid connection infrastructure on behalf of the Senegalese public purchaser Senelec, the national electricity company of Senegal. Lastly, in social terms, this park will contribute to further reducing unintentional electrical blackouts, and thus offer better access to various services.

The result

The electrical capacity of Senegal has gone from around 660 MW in 2010 to 1000 MW in mid-2017 with the goal of reaching 1260 MW in 2019. Though Senelec was not producing profit even in 2014, it now exports its surplus to Mali, while the production cost has gone from 97 F CFA/kWh (EUR 0.15) in 2012 to 44 F CFA/kWh in 2016.

Better yet, the increase in energy production, and in particular solar energy, has resulted in the cost of electricity dropping by 10% for Senelec users, or an estimated savings of CFA 30 million on the total annual energy bill for individuals and companies.

According to authorities, by pursuing such a strategy, Senegal aims to accelerate the diversification of its energy mix by reducing its dependence on fossil fuels, which still represent 90% of the mix. The operation of Ten Merina also confirms the willingness of the country to follow through with its commitments made at COP 21 in December 2015.

(*) COP = United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP). The 2015 meeting was held in Paris.



  • Belgian Investment Company for Developping Countries (BIO)
  • Société française d’investissement Meridiam / Propraco