Lack of electricity in Africa remained one of the biggest barriers to the region’s development and prosperity, and continues to trap millions of people in extreme and abject poverty, according to South Africa Minister of Power, Lynne Brown.
Brown who gave this assertion in a speech delivered at the just concluded Power-Gen Africa Conference in South Africa, added that the current energy deficit in Africa was alarming.
According to him, ageing power infrastructure remains unable to meet the surge in power demand. “Large infrastructure investments are therefore a rationale response to myriad of well-documented challenges in power supply”, he added.
He said that like the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa has faced its own power generation challenges. “In the decade that followed 1994, heavy investments in the country’s heavy mineral plants (particularly aluminum and steel), rapid economic growth and the need to achieve universal access to electricity and other socio-economic infrastructure led to a rapid rise in electricity demand”.
Brown disclosed that large infrastructure projects require specific skills in engineering, productivity improvements, life cycle asset management and complex procurement management.
He stated: “We need to actively grow our technical and vocations skills in this area in partnerships with others in order to fast track uptake and ensure reliable energy. I believe that the technological innovations and future expansions will definitely address the challenge of universal electrification in our countries.
“It is a huge opportunity, the challenge lies in ensuring that we leverage our technological expertise and innovation to provide energy in a cost effective manner and at the same time grow our different countries domestic economies to ensure long term sustainability.
“There are a range of opportunities to strengthen electricity networks to facilitate an increase in regional electricity markets, especially through investments in generation and transmission. Large hydro generation is being developed that contributes to lower carbon drives. Ethiopia’s determination and resilience, for example, by building the colossal 6GW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance for power generation has enabled it to sell energy in the export market to Djibouti and Sudan, thereby earning revenue of $123 million during its 2015/16 fiscal year”.
Brown noted that the coordinated development of regional infrastructure will enable projects to be delivered on time thereby unlocking other regional economic opportunities and growth centres.