AfDB Chief on a rescue mission for Africa’s power sector

After barely two days in office, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, the newly elected African Development Bank Chief has rolled out propositions to channel efforts of the Bank towards boosting Africa’s power sector. The recent performance of the sector has limited Africa from tapping its full economic potentials, thereby placing the continent at the receiving end of persistent fluctuation in commodity prices in the global market. “We have to add value so that (Africa) does not expose itself to the continued volatility of global prices for commodities,” the new AfDB chief said in an interview with Reuters.

Dr. Adesina identified that lack of reliable power grids is a big hindrance to industrialization on the continent. He also noted that this has hampered the movement of raw materials from producers to industrialising countries.

The need to prioritize power generation in Africa is not misplaced. Many countries in the continent are tackling an energy crisis, which compounds enduring developmental issues. The overwhelming impact of power shortages on African economy cannot be overemphasized. This explains why African countries are frantically searching for alternatives.

In Nigeria, the energy crisis has deepened as only about 5 of 23 power plants were functional in the country in May. To bolster rapid production and development, Nigeria sought to tap its abundant 485.1 million MWh/day of solar energy in order to provide an alternative to existing power generation schemes.

Although South Africa recently opened its first power plant in 20 years, the country still seeks to expand the base of its energy sector. The country hopes to achieve this by expanding its nuclear capacity. This is because the country had been bedevilled by energy crisis for up to a decade. However, consultancy firm, Mckinsey and Company thinks the situation might become worse as the South African government already started decommissioning old coal plants. While electricity demands continue to rise, the production base is reducing and more people are being laid off by the day.

In the midst of the energy crisis and its debilitating effects, Zambian state power utility, Zesco Ltd. has announced that it will deepen power cuts. This came after the water levels of Zambia’s largest hydro power station dropped drastically on account of the country being hit by drought. As the second largest producer of copper in Africa, the implication is that the mining sector will be grossly affected and the country’s economy will suffer.

Earlier this year, the power sector crisis in Ghana created considerable consequences for the emerging economy. At a point many companies fired a lot of their workers as production decreased. Humorously, Ghana’s President, John Mahama, was nicknamed Mr. Dumsor; popular word for power outages in the country.

Even though the AfDB chief did not specifically highlight an agenda, his move might just resolve energy issues in Africa with lasting impacts on the economy at large.

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