The World Bank has approved $700m for the development of the Sankofa offshore gas project in Ghana.

The guarantees includes $500m from the International Development Association (IDA), and $200m from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), to support the state-run Ghana National Petroleum’s (GNPC) gas purchases and the Sankofa project to secure private financing.

The guarantees are expected to attract around $7.9bn private investments for offshore natural gas.

Planned to be commissioned in 2018, the Sankofa project will help the African country generate up to 1,000MW clean power and reduce its oil imports by around 12 million barrels a year.

Eni, Netherlands-based Vitol and GNPC will collaborate to explore and commercialize the potential gas.

Ghana Finance Minister Seth Terkper said: "This project is an essential element of the drive towards consolidating our middle income status, and will help secure our natural gas resources for a more affordable and reliable power supply.

"It is part of the smart financing we have been talking about, and we are very grateful to the World Bank Group for this major achievement."

The guarantees will advance the project towards finalizing legal contracts, the World Bank said.