Africa's energy shortages have affected more than the
countries that are the major regional economic engines, like Nigeria, Kenya and
South Africa. The demand for electricity has also grown in Namibia and Zambia,
which need more power for agriculture, mining and manufacturing. From Lusaka, Zambia, reporter Danstan Kaunda looks at the
energy crisis and some steps governments are taking to deal with it.
Power blackouts are now a source of great concern to
most countries in southern Africa. In Zambia, where the
economy is based mainly on manufacturing and mining, production has dropped 30 percent because of
blackouts. Other sectors affected are tourism and agriculture.
David Matongo says other countries in the region are facing
similar problems. Matongo is the chairperson of the Committee on Energy for the
Southern African Development Community.
"While the SADC governments were warned of the impending
power shortages more then ten years ago," he said, "they did not take adequate steps to
avert the crisis. Despite the huge energy potential in the region, most of it
remains untapped. Very little was done to diversify from the conventional
energy sources to abundant renewable and other non-conventional sources."
But Namibia, Zambia
and other countries in the region are now investing heavily in clean energy
sources such as solar, wind and gas. Zambia is building small hydro power
stations at the northern town of Kalungwishi and at Kabompo Gorge in
Northwestern province, bordering the DRC. Mining companies will be the main
customers for these new power sources.
But will renewable energy be enough to meet southern
Africa's demands for electricity?
Kuda Ndhlukula is a project coordinator for Namibia's
Renewable Energy and Energy Institute.
He said renewable energy can promote long-term economic
growth and self-reliance.
"Renewable energy] will not cover up this crisis," he said, "but it is
one way we can utilize [electricity in the case of this power deficit]. A
combination of things has to be done, to meet [the demand for electricity] by
industries and [households]. We [in sub-Sahara Africa] are sitting on huge
natural energy resources such as solar, wind. This is the time [to] invest. I
believe in Namibia alone, we can meet demand just by using solar and wind energy
sources. We are currently [assessing] offshore wind-currents before setting up
a national wind energy farm."
Governments are trying a number of ways to reduce
Some have suspended duties on energy saving equipment, such
as improved light bulbs and solar panels. Some are also giving incentives to
Monica Chisela is with Zambia's state-owned power utility,
She said, "We are giving an incentive
for [industries] to shift their loads [production time] to off-peak -- the period between 9
pm to 5am. The incentive [includes] a 50 percent discount. Also at this time
[off-peak] power is available at maximum supply so there [will be no black
The regional body regulating electricity, the Southern African Power Pool, says southern Africa needs 55,000 megawatts per h our. That's 15,00 more than the amount being supplied today.