Legal adviser to the Federal Government’s Advisory Power Team (APT) Mr Dapo Akinosun, has called for a homegrown solution to Africa’s energy problems and needs. Using Nigeria as a case study, Akinosun said despite its huge challenges, Africa’s energy sector provides good business opportunities for investors. He advocated an African solution to the power problems of the continent.
“My vision for Africa in the energy sector is one that is independent and interdependent, Independent by national design and perspective; and interdependent by international choice and focus”, he said.
Akinosun spoke at the African Utility Week conference in Cape Town, South Africa. The theme of the conference is “What is the best-cost and optimal mix in Africa?”
APT is made up of experts in various areas of the power sector, including: Gas to Power; Solar Power; Transmission; and Generation among others. The mandate of the team is to provide technical support to the Federal Government on power and to harmonize the direction of all MDAs (Ministries, Departments & Agencies) involved in the power sector.
The team also reviews proposals from investors and foreign governments interested in participating in the power sector, with a view to advising the government. The team’s mandate makes it interface with participants in all areas of the power sector. The team conducts physical assessment of power facilities across the country. It is the office of the Vice President who supervises many of the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the power sector.
Akinosun, the principal partner of Simmon Coopers Partners, is responsible for energy and infrastructure practice at the chambers. He has advised governments and organisations who are participants at all levels of the energy sector, in ensuring optimum effectiveness in their activities, investments, and regulatory compliance.
Akinosun believes that the power sector is on a peculiar learning curve, the realities of which are better appreciated when put in perspective. “It should be understood that Nigeria’s power sector is the only privatised power system in the continent.
“That in itself poses management challenges as there are no Africa specific benchmarks to use in comparison. This becomes important when we realise that all development is achieved based on comparative models which in our case we do not have. It is therefore axiomatic that for every major achievement we need to dig within to find a solution”, he said.
He acknowledged at privatisation was not perfect, pointing out that this has lengthened the learning curve. Akinosun noted the fluctuation of the naira vis-à-vis the major currencies of the world. “Given that most of the components of the Nigerian power sector are imported, fluctuation in the value of the Naira makes business planning a nightmare.”
Despite all the challenges, Akinosun believes that the industry has potential for those who are ready to invest in its energy sector. “It’s not all gloom and doom. ‘The challenges in and of themselves are business opportunities. Equally important is that the liberation of the sector has shed light into a previously opaque sector;
“The light that has come helps to itemise in verifiable terms the opportunities in the sectors. This becomes good news to entrepreneurial interests and the investor community. In summary, the power sector is a case of half empty and half full. The way you choose to look at it will determine if you can benefit from the sector or not, he said adding: “My message will revolve around developing home grown solutions to the energy challenges. Yes, we talk about the financial demands of the industry but it is key to break these demands into piecemeal tasks such that the financial needs can be solved with home grown remedies rather than imported ‘medications’. To this extent, what Nigeria currently obtains from Europe and the US should be obtained from countries like Kenya, Egypt, South Africa, etc;
“Energy is the most important commodity. Period! Energy can be measured for empirical purposes in per capita terms. Nigeria and indeed the continent have some of the great potential for demand for energy. We should not misuse this opportunity. An African that is both independent and interdependent is in the enlightened self-interest of all”.