The dropping of a long-standing ban on renewable energy for Senegalese citizens is seeing triumphant moves toward off the grid electricity access for the country’s poorest.

After the citizens of Dakar demanded that the law prohibiting the use, sale and manufacture of renewable energy be lifted from Senegal (an attempt to create a “competitive market” according to former president Abdoulaye Wade) the ban was officially dropped in February of this year. Hesitantly, the first solar panel importers started setting up shop but now over the past few months, while still expensive, the domestic renewables market has been coming into its own.

In a country with more than 9 months of uninterrupted sunshine every year, very little had been done up to now to make use of the available resources, but all of this is about to change. The Senegalese government is working on a project to turn 14,000 traditional rural villages into eco villages – communities that rely almost entirely on solar power. So far, the government has built only 100 of them, but it plans to build 500 more by the end of 2018.

Senegal is one of 40 countries working together on streamlining the process for turning traditional villages into eco villages. Last year, representatives met in Senegal to draft a working paper that outlines how the process of building eco villages can be presented to local authorities. That paper will be presented at the GEN+20 Summit in July, a conference that focuses on the development of eco villages in Africa and Latin America.

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