Aligning new investments trend to solve West Africa’s power Infrastructure lapses
by KELECHI EWUZIE
August 23, 2017 | 12:23 am| | | Start Conversation
There appears to be no end in sight for electricity crisis in West Africa in recent years in spite of the efforts made to construct new electric power plants and transmission networks.
It is no longer news that the populations of West African countries continue to suffer from limited access to electric power and endemic electricity shortages. This situation no doubt constitutes a bottleneck to their socio-economic development.
While there appear to be some measure of reforms in the electricity industry which have been gradually undertaken in the region under the initiatives of donors who sponsored them, such ongoing restructuring consists mainly in privatising the public electricity utilities in order to attract private funds to the electricity sector.
In countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Togo, Guinea and Mali, electricity supply relies significantly on hydropower, and this is subject to strong multi-annual variability because of fluctuating hydrological conditions.
Industry close watchers are of the opinion that for the West Africa region to stand any chance of resolving their power situation there is urgent need to close the large gap between the present trend of investments and actual needs.
They are of the view that to improve power situation in the region, Western African countries need to considerably reinforce their electricity supply infrastructures.
According to them, “To retrofit the existing installations and construct new generation and transmission facilities require significant financial resources which are very difficult to attract due to the countries specific economic condition”.
Analysts in the power sector observe that the cooperative approach the electricity systems are undertaking within the West African Power Pool project is not sufficient to cope with the challenge of attracting the required funds to meet future regional electricity demand.
“The implementation of the proposed concept of integrative approach according to industry expert will require a necessary voluntarism and a strong commitment of the countries” They opine any attempts to solve the capacity needs for the whole region must be achieved through a competitive market.
Report indicates that the electric generating systems in most West Africa countries are structurally imbalanced. A country like Senegal, with electricity generation mainly based on oil, have experienced frequent power plant outages due to low reliability and the difficulty of fuel procurement stemming from the international oil price surge.
The heavy debt of most of the utilities in the region, and their low financing capability, mainly explain the under-capacity of electric generating systems in West African countries.
In addition, the governments are unable to provide the necessary funding for renovation and further development of electricity infrastructures. The obsolete equipment and management dysfunctions, in turn, help cause a weak performance of the whole electricity industry.
Analysts insist that if privitisation can be a solution to improve management and operation cost, it does not constitute a panacea for financing electricity sector expansion.
To them, under the current state of national electricity infrastructures and regulations, private investors are not willing to heavily invest. Another option envisaged by industry close watchers is the development of a more open integrated framework that could ensure the electricity security of supply by progressively opening the market to competition at the regional level.
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