Keep track of power projects

SADC member states recently met in Harare where they approved an industrialisation strategy to help the region realise more revenue from its resources by trading finished goods instead of unprocessed raw materials.

Coupled with the region’s quest to put in place functioning infrastructure, industrialised economies are envisaged to spur socio-economic development in the 15-member grouping.

However, both the infrastructure and industrialised economies that the region is clamouring for need electricity to power them.

And reports that a number of the SADC member states are battling electricity generation challenges are depressing to the push for infrastructure development and industrialisation. The region’s major power producer, South Africa, is in the throes of an electricity crisis. The country’s power utility Eskom has had to reduce or in some cases cut supplies to neighbours because of its own generation hiccups. Other countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia are also grappling with reduced electricity generation due to a combination of factors. These challenges are posing serious headaches to the Southern African Power Pool, under which SADC member states share electricity.

Infrastructure in the transport, energy and information communication technology, tourism and water sectors has been identified as the catalyst to facilitating economic development both at the national and regional levels.

And SADC leaders have shown their commitment to accelerating infrastructure development by signing the SADC Declaration on Regional Infrastructure Development in which they committed themselves to promote mutual co-operation between member states in the rapid development of bankable projects that will foster adequate and efficient trade routes for regional and international trade.

It was, therefore, important for the SADC leaders to show their commitment to accelerate the development of infrastructure in these key sectors. But the region’s aspirations including industrialisation can only happen when there is enough energy, water, efficient ICTs and reliable transport to facilitate the movement of goods and people.

SADC has been experiencing power shortages dating as far back as 2006 due to a combination of factors including the lack of investment in the energy sector.

This has forced most member states to implement demand-side management policies such as load shedding that have to some extent succeeded in restraining overall electricity demand in the region. But these have been inconveniencing both commercial and domestic consumers.  

All hope is not lost though as the region expects to move towards meeting its energy demands in three years’ time when about 2 763 Megawatts are expected to come on stream to the regional grid.

The 2 763 Megawatts will come from the 13 power projects, the majority of them in South Africa, which are being developed in the region.

We urge regional authorities to keep an eagle’s eye on the projects and ensure that they are finished on time because the power shortages, if unchecked, will throw off the rails the region’s development plans.

The momentum exhibited through the adoption of infrastructure and industrialisation strategies should be maintained. This is the only way to ensure the region keeps alive the long cherished dream of having functioning infrastructure to facilitate investment and trade and subsequently economic growth and poverty reduction.

June 2015
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