By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka- Africa needs a staggering US$188 billion to build modern energy infrastructure and meet the continental demand for power, the main driver of economic emancipation, a recent study has revealed.
While Africa seeks alternative energy needs through solar, bio-fuels and other forms, ostensibly to bolster hydro power generation in most African states, there is a need for commitment to develop and modernise the infrastructure and enhance the transformation lives of more than 3 billion inhabitants.
Estimates by the African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa's Development (AUDA-NEPAD) to eradicate poverty, promote sustainable growth and development, integrate Africa in the world economy and accelerate the empowerment of women, show that Africa’s developmental agenda may veer off course without proper infrastructure to drive the continent’s economic agenda.
Ibrah Mountaka Wahabou, the AUDA-NEPAD project manager for the Service Delivery Mechanism in the Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade division, notes that Africa’s quest to development should remain in tandem with the need to modern and development reliable cross-country-infrastructure linking all 55-member states for it to attain economic emancipation.
Speaking during a stakeholder dialogue meeting on the domestic resource mobilisation and job creation optimisation for development of the 2,400 MW Batoka Gorge hydro-electric scheme being developed jointly by Zambia and Zimbabwe, Mountaka Wahabou stressed the call for Africa to seek financial injection in sustainable and durable projects with AUDA-NEPAD ready to act as guarantor.
It is estimated that Africa’s energy projects average 430 and need to be upgraded or developed using local resources and with help from developing partners and that AUDA-NEPAD could act as go between-for governments, private sector and financing institutions and partners to raise the resources.
“Africa has the capacity to raise these resources to develop their energy infrastructure but what is needed is to show commitment to raise the funds and we are ready to act as guarantors,” he said.
Citing the US$4 billion Batoka hydro power plant, earmarked for completion by 2024 in which the two countries are tasked to raise 5 percent each of the local resources needed using local resources, he said AUDA-NEPAD stood ready to remain instrumental in mobilising resources and speed up the project, envisioned to plug off the energy deficit buffeting the two neighbours and ultimately benefit regional member states.
The would-be developers of the project, according to the project plan, are expected to mobilise the remaining resources using various alternatives, including tapping into domestic markets and ensure the project comes to fruition as envisaged.
The chairperson of the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), Emeldah Chola, challenged Africa to take the challenge and mobilise domestic resources for energy projects than rely on donor funds, prone to delays. The ZRA manages the shared water resources on the Zambezi River on behalf of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As Africa comes of age, it was imperative to digress from donor dependence and mop up own resources for project development as it harbours exports of jobs and development while slowing down industrial growth and leaving local people unemployed, she said.
Zambia and Zimbabwe have since embraced the continental initiative of mobilising “home grown resources” whole heartedly for the development of the Batoka Gorge hydro electric scheme with 20 percent of the cost being local continent.
“The local content has to be in the form of local materials and infrastructure development like access roads and construction of villages,” Chola told delegates to the two-day energy meeting which she officially opened last week.
Zambia and Zimbabwe urged all players to seize the opportunities presented by the multi-billion dollar project and ensure there was maximum local ownership if the locals took up challenging roles and ensured there was maximum creation of jobs at the gorge, expected to absorb 3,000 at completion.
She commended the relationship between AUDA-NEPAD and Association of Power Utilities of Africa (APUA), which is tasked to coordinate and execute priority regional and continental projects to ensure the realisation of Agenda 2063 for its unwavering role in enhancing, human capital development, skills, youths, employment and women empowerment.
The partnership further endeavoured to accelerate regional integration, infrastructure, energy, water and ICT, transport, trade, industrialisation, science, technology and innovation, natural resources, governance and food security, among other developmental roles.
APUA director general Engineer Abel Didier Tella challenged Africa to remain innovative and mobilise own resources that would bolster economic growth for member states, unlike donor reliance to ensure ownership, a yardstick for defraying debt related costs.
The event attracted among others, representatives from the Southern African Power Pool, Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), Agency for Safety, Energy and Environment (ASEA), and the National Agency for Industrial Safety and Environmental Protection of the Hydrocarbons Sector.