190m people in SADC have no electricity
By Gugu Mahlalela
EZULWINI – Over 190 million people are in dire need of access to electricity in southern African region, the King of Swaziland, Mswati III has revealed during the just ended SADC Energy Investment Forum here last week.
Mswati III the chairperson of SADC noted that currently the region is faced with several challenges which affect the live-hood of the people such as unemployment, insufficient electricity and water services that hinder the drive towards achieving industrialization goals.
“Recent studies reveal that access to electricity in some member states is below 20 percent and approximately 190 million people in the SADC region live without access to electricity,” he said.
For SADC to achieve its industrialization goals, Mswati said the current short term forecast compels the region to increase energy generation capacity by an average of 5 000 Mega-Watts on an annual basis until 2022. He further stressed that it is disturbing to note that out of over 292 million people in the region, only 60 percent has access to safe drinking water while only 40 percent has access to adequate sanitation facilities.
“The Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan estimated that in order to support regional development by 2027, there is a need to increase the current 14 percent of the stored water to at least 25 percent with a view to increase access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities.
“It is a well-known fact that reliable energy and availability of clean water are central to economic growth, industrialisation as well as the well-being of our citizens”, said King Mswati III.
He also expressed appreciation that the energy forum adopted detailed actions to be undertaken in order to eliminate barriers to the timely implementation of energy infrastructure projects.
The King he is hopeful that the national energy projects presented by Swaziland and those of the SADC Region will be able to attract funding and partnerships from financial institutions and investors.
SADC Executive Secretary Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax said the regional Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap embraces energy as a key driver of industrialization.
She said the investment forum came at the opportune time in order to ensure that energy plays its rightful role in the region’s industrialisation drive.
Tax said the fact that 58 percent of the African population does not have access to electricity has serious negative implications for productivity, and therefore aspirations to industrialise.
“In the 21st Century women are still cooking with fuel wood and charcoal, spending many hours collecting wood and other biomass, thus denying them the valuable time for other productive activities.
“This happens when Africa and indeed the SADC Region has abundant supply of solar, hydropower, wind and geothermal potential, as well as significant amounts of natural gas and in some countries coal deposits”, said Tax.
The Executive Secretary said the region therefore has to move quickly to unlock the energy potential in order to accelerate the drive towards our goals of regional integration, through among others, a reliable base load power to drive industrial growth and thus economic prosperity and poverty eradication.
And for this to happen, SADC has to take advantage and effectively develop and utilize the abundant sources of energy through the emerging technologies and alternative business models that will facilitate investments in this critical socio-economic sector.
“We all know that national budgets are not sufficient to finance multiple infrastructure requirements, as such there is a need to close the infrastructure financing gap by attracting various models of investments, including in the energy sector”, she said.