Gigawatt Global, an American-backed Dutch company headed by American-Israeli CEO Yosef Abramowitz, worked with a long list of public and private partners worldwide to advance the project. It is the largest private investment in Burundi’s energy sector in 30 years.The company inaugurated sub-Saharan Africa’s first utility-scale solar field in Rwanda in 2014. It is active in renewable-energy projects in 10 African countries.“It takes a global village to bring utility-scale green energy to where it is needed most in Africa,” said Abramowitz, named by CNN as one of the world’s six leading “Green Pioneers” in 2012.“Following the lackluster United Nations climate conference, we are demonstrating to the world that it is possible to create and scale a business model to achieve, especially in frontier markets, many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs],” he said. “Greta Thunberg is rallying the world to stop burning fossil fuels; we are actively transitioning the energy economies of African countries to wind and solar.”Most of the Burundian population lives in poverty, with food insecurity almost twice as high as the sub-Saharan average, according to the World Bank. Less than 5% of the population has access to electricity, and access to water and sanitation remains low.
Potential for solar-energy production is great in Burundi, according to the UN Environment Program, especially in rural areas not connected to the grid.“We are proud to kick off the UN’s Decade of Action toward fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals with this landmark solar investment,” Abramowitz said. “We have operations in 10 African countries and look forward to expanding our partnerships so that we can bring power to the people of Africa and actively fight the climate crisis.”Partners in the Burundi project include Inspired Evolution, UK-based Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP), the US government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and Power Africa. The project is also supported by the Energy and Environment Partnership (EEP), Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Program (RECP) and the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO).“Bringing clean energy to one of the world’s least-developed countries fulfills Gigawatt Global’s mission to be a premier impact platform of choice for renewables in Africa,” said Michael Fichtenberg, managing director of Gigawatt Global Burundi SA and vice president of finance and business development of Gigawatt Global Cooperation.“We accomplished this pioneering project together with supporters from across the entire development spectrum, including innovative financial products being deployed for the first time with this project,” he said, citing the support of the African Trade Insurance Agency’s innovative Regional Liquidity Support Facility. “We believe this demonstrates how solar power can be implemented in other developing markets, while decreasing dependency on costly and polluting diesel generators.”The project will provide 300 temporary jobs during the solar-field construction phase and up to 50 permanent jobs during the facility’s 25-year operational phase, Gigawatt Global said.“We hope this historic solar project will further warm our bilateral relations and shine a light in Africa on practical solutions to both economic development and the climate crisis,” said Raphael Morav, Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Burundi and Rwanda.Construction work on the project in Burundi initiates a 10-country pipeline of solar and wind projects across Africa, totaling 350 MW in energy-generation capacity, Gigawatt Global said. The company is pursuing a Series A institutional investment round to fund its expansion.