Mali, Russia start work on major solar plant 

Dakar, Senegal — Mali and Russia on Friday launched the construction of the largest solar power plant in West Africa, Malian Energy Minister Bintou Camara said on national television. 

It comes as the country continues to be plagued by electricity supply problems, with only half of the population having access to electricity. 

The power station, “the first [in terms of size] in the country and even in the subregion … will greatly reduce the electricity shortage currently affecting our country,” Camara told Malian TV station ORTM. 

Grigory Nazarov, director of NovaWind, the Russian company in charge of the construction, said it is expected to increase Mali’s electricity production by 10%. 

NovaWind is a subsidiary of Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom. 

The 200-megawatt solar station will cover 314 hectares in Sanankoroba, in southwestern Mali, close to the capital, Bamako. 

The work, which is costing over 200 million euros ($217 million), will take a year to complete, Nazarov said. 

The solar power plant is designed for “stable operation for 20 years” and will come “under full control of the Malian Ministry of Energy” after 10 years, he added. 

Malian electricity production is 70% thermal, which is extremely costly, Finance Minister Alousseni Sanou said in March when the deal with NovaWind was signed. 

Burdened with a debt of more than $330 million, Mali’s national energy company is no longer able to supply electricity to the capital and other towns around the country. 

Construction of two other solar plants near Bamako is scheduled to start on May 28 and June 1 and be built by Chinese and Emirati companies. 

Moscow has steadily gained influence in Mali through the deployment of Wagner Group mercenaries, unofficially serving the Kremlin’s aims in resource-rich Africa since the 2010s. 

During a call in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Malian junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita discussed strengthening “cooperation in energy, agricultural and mining projects,” the Kremlin said. 

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