Africa’s decisive move to develop its energy sector
By Tesfaye Lemma
Tigrai Online, May 16, 2017
In recent years most of African countries has began to exercise to tap their huge natural resources in the enregy sector
Africa is endowed with huge natural resources. The energy resource is one among many others. However, it has never utilized it properly for many reasons. One among these reasons is lack of peace and stability. The civil and cross country conflicts never let a space to African people for think about their development.
It is in recent times that most of African countries begin to exercise to tap their natural resources. Even in this case, some of the countries have been engaged in a ceaseless conflict as a result of the need to use their resource. They have been fighting and citizens were not able to use their sources and live peacefully. In some countries, there are some successful efforts. Ethiopia could be a model for these countries.
In fact, the continent boasts rich clean energy resources. Its water energy resource accounted for 10 percent. While its wind and solar energy accounted for 32 and 40 percent receptively. If considered the amount of resource that a country has endowed with it is really large and significant.
Despite the efforts exerted by various states to utilize their respected resources, the total achievement is insignificant so far. The utilization of energy resources in the continent for its economic development has a huge gap. Political and economic analysts argue that, the continent has been failing to properly utilize it for many reasons.
One of the major challenges the energy industry has been facing is lack of capacity. Africa has no well trained and skilled manpower. Most of the well trained scholars in the energy sector are living abroad for different reasons.
In some cases, scholars left their country due to political reasons, anti-democratic activities and bad governance. In other cases, they left their motherland in need of better access to life and ransom salary. The number of African scholars living and serving in the continent is not mach in comparison to those who live abroad. Another significant reason is financial constraints.
As a result, the industry is untapped and there are power infrastructure and unreliable power supply in the continent. Despite the huge resource for energy, the continent is still with continuous black outs. According to recent studies, the number of people who do not have electricity accounted about 54 percent of the total population in Africa.
However, the situation is now changed in some African countries including Ethiopia. These countries are promoting the development of electricity through electricity related legislation and supervision, the establishment of electricity market and support for development projects. The cooperation among all African countries to develop the industry could help to effectively use their resource for poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
On the other hand, it is not as such easy to agree on mutual development among countries particularly share water resources. The Nile Basin countries can be a case in this regard. Despite the huge resource of the Nile River, they had never used it for their poverty alleviation mutually. Had there been a prudent water administration and management, Basin Countries could have benefited a lot through developing various projects along it.
It is a recent happening that, when Ethiopia launched its grand dam, there were objections particularly downstream countries the Sudan and Egypt although the Sudan soon recognized not only the very rights of Ethiopia to use its natural resources, but also the benefit of the grand dam for the downstream countries.
In fact, situations have become tense some time and ease at another time, particularly between Ethiopia and Egypt in the first years of the construction of the grand dam. Later the disagreement has become between Egypt on one side and Ethiopia as well as the Sudan on the other side.
This is an indication but there are lots of conflicts in using natural resources among and within African countries. Recently, it was reported that five major power alliances have set in order to give gradual driving the formation of regional electricity markets and promoting power grid interconnection and mutual relief.
Ethiopia is located in the upper reaches of the Nile, with water energy being the major form of energy resources. Its theoretical reserves of water energy totals 0.65 trillion kWh/year and its technological mining capacity is 0.26 trillion kWh/year, ranking second in Africa. According to the available draft from 2008 to 2013 the annual growth rate of Ethiopia’s average electricity consumption was as high as 12.4 percent.
Ethiopia, like other African countries had a lot of constraints to develop its water resources. As it is mentioned above, it has financial constraints and couldn’t get any support from the developed countries to build any project on the Nile River.
However, the country has managed to overcome these problems, firstly by developing its economic capacity and secondly establishing a diplomatic relation among countries in the region and the rest of the world. In fact, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is financed only by the Ethiopian people and government, that there is no external aid to it.
In this regard China is one of the potential development partners in Ethiopia. Previously, China was not well developed and it hadn’t had any capacity to significantly assist Ethiopia. In other words, it was one of the poor countries in the world. That is why Ethiopia for many reasons failed to get supporters from the developed countries and could think even to construct any project on the Nile River which was under the domination of Egypt.
China’s intervention in Ethiopia has become so significant. The areas of the cooperation between the two countries have so diversified. There are cooperation in agriculture, technology transfer, roads, railways, buildings and energy development.
The Belt and Road Initiative is one of the major cooperation initiatives in which China play its roles in economic globalization and supporting African countries. It has been doing its best level to help African people in many ways. One of the significant contributions is its financial support of the construction of the African Union Commission Head Office in Addis Ababa.
The Belt and Road initiative, which was proposed by China for adapting to the economic globalization in the 21st century, is believed to meaningfully strengthen the China-African relations. In connection with the initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that, in order to facilitate the Belt and Road Initiative, we needed to emphasize on key landmark projects, and strive to achieve outcomes as soon as possible.
Accelerating the connectivity of African power grid infrastructure and promoting the construction of energy network in Africa are of great significance to implementing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, facilitating China's equipment industry to go global, achieving win-win cooperation and peaceful development between and for China and Africa. Moreover, such moves will generate enormous economic, social, environmental and comprehensive benefits. He said.