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Chinese Energy Diplomacy in Mali to Increase Renewable Energy Generation

Mali’s President of the Transition, Assimi Goïta with China's Ambassador to Mali, Chen Zhihong during the solar project's inauguration. Photo / Chinese Embassy in Mali

China and Mali are building a new 100-megawatt solar power plant in Safo, 20km northeast of the capital Bamako.

The partnership seeks to provide the energy-deficient West African country with sustainable power. Safo will be equipped with solar panels and will also include an energy storage system.

China’s Ambassador to Mali, Chen Zhihong, attended last month’s launch event for the project which Bintou Camara, Mali’s energy and water minister, said is among those set to modernize the country’s energy system and help it shift to renewable energy sources. 

The West African nation heavily depends on fossil fuels, which contributes to high energy costs.

While the project’s funding is not clear, the minister’s speech hinted at China’s financial and other technical involvement in developing Mali’s energy infrastructure. 

Chinese construction giant Sinohydro will build the project, which is expected to be completed in 15 months.

The project is one of the three solar power plants in the region, including the 200MW Sanankoroba plant by Russia’s NovaWind and another that will be done by Emirati companies.

Chinese companies are said to have quietly joined Africa’s renewable energy revolution. In March 2023, China Power Construction Corporation held a special 10-day training program for Mali focused on energy supply chains, including construction and maintenance. It was the 112th such program in a developing nation.

The project is a notable milestone for the power-starved country and a turning point for Mali’s transitional government, which is seeking the diversify its partnerships with countries like China, Russia, and Turkey.

When completed, the solar power plant will generate about 5% of Mali’s electricity.

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