We welcome efforts by SADC to address key infrastructural projects and economic enablers that would speed up the process of industrialisation, beneficiation of raw materials found in the region and promote employment creation.
As we reported last week and elsewhere in this issue, the SADC region is racing against time to bridge the energy and power gap and is making efforts to narrow this gap.
SADC, which is a key regional economic community and one of the building blocs of Africa towards creating an industrialised and developed continent, is racing against time to install new energy projects needed to generate 35 000 MW in order to avoid a huge power deficit by 2022.
SADC has 58 000 MW installed generation capacity but at the moment the region is only producing 47 000 MW. The region’s demand currently stands at about 53 000 MW which means there is a supply deficit of 6000 MW.
It has been over 10 years now that SADC has been operating with a generation supply deficit. The over-reliance on hydro-electric power by the region means countries will continue to suffer in the event of droughts which, thanks to climate change, are now a common phenomenon. This therefore calls for leaders in the region to think outside the box and come up with lasting solutions for power generation.
This is why this past week SADC ministers of energy, power development, natural resources and water met in Ezulwini, Swaziland, to come up with ways of addressing this yawning power generation gap. This is after a realisation that without power and water, there won’t be any meaningful economic development to talk about and key programmes like industrialisation and beneficiation will remain pipe dreams.
Swaziland’s Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Jabulile Mashwama could not have put it any better when she said water drives energy production and it is also critical for the drilling and mining of natural gas, coal, oil and other energy sources like uranium.
She said she was delighted that the meeting of Water Ministers had been scheduled to coincide with the Energy Investors Forum to ensure that investment in water infrastructure is also advocated for to further emphasis the water-energy and food nexus.
With demand for power increasing each day to power industries and light up homes, the region therefore needs to grasp the nettle and ensure that energy projects identified are implemented. It needs to identify serious investors who are willing to fund these projects.
For a long time, there has been talk of the Inga hydro-power project in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Batoka hydo-power project on the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe. There has also been talk of the region investing in solar power projects to complement energy from hydro and thermal stations.
We urge the leaders in the region to move away from rhetoric and ensure that these are implemented.
SADC, and indeed Africa as a whole, cannot afford to remain lagging behind other regions when it is abundantly resourced.
As we have said in the past, the continent cannot afford to watch while other countries continue to ship its resources in their raw form only to exploit them elsewhere because of lack of key economic enablers like power.
It is time for action. People in the region want to see their leaders adopting key policies that will take them out poverty such as industrialisation and beneficiation and these policies can adequately be implemented when there is abundant power and water.
It is our hope that the SADC Energy, Power and Water high-level ministerial meeting does not become another talk shop and that bankable projects that the region has been working on would come to fruition.