The Minister for Infrastructure, Claver Gatete, has said it requires significant government subsidies by Central African states in order to reduce high tariffs on electricity which are in most cases not affordable to end users.
He was speaking during an annual meeting of Central African Power Pool (PEAC) member States that ended in Kigali yesterday.
It brought together policy-makers from 11 countries including Angola, Burundi, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, DR Congo, Sao-Tomé, Chad and hosts Rwanda.
Gatete said that member countries of the Economic Community of Central Africa States (ECCAS) are putting their efforts together in order to provide a lasting solution to the extremely low rate of electrification and consequently low access to electricity.
The average penetration of electricity in the ECCAS region is estimated at 25 per cent.
“We are all convinced of the importance of energy in the development of our continent. It is clear our population still lacks access to electricity mainly due to huge investments required for production, transmission and distribution of electricity.
These investments result into high tariff regimes which are in most cases not affordable to end users. Therefore, pooling together is part of finding sustainable solutions to these challenges which requires sizeable government subsidies,” he said.
Central Africa has huge reserves of renewable energy resources such as hydro, solar, wind energy, geothermal as well as non-renewables like thermal, peat, coal which are technically and financially viable.
Gatete added that preliminary studies by experts have shown that Central Africa’s hydropower potential is estimated at 150,000 MW, equivalent to 58% of the entire African continent’s potential.
However, he said that according to a study on hydropower and dams, the potential is exploited at only 3% in Central Africa.
“Coming together is also an opportunity to raise cheaper resources, both financial and human resources, to develop a vibrant energy sector. In Rwanda, for example, we are working on how to exploit all these sources of energy in partnership with the private sector,” he said.
He noted that efforts must be focused on the supply side and concurrently on the demand component by creating the right ecosystem for light and heavy industries to thrive since by overcoming lack of quantity and quality of power supply, industrial energy demand would triple.
Through the development of its abundant renewable energy resources, he added, Africa has the potential to build a truly green economy considering that “the renewable energy roadmap options shows that 23% of industry demand can be met by modern renewable energy technologies”.
According to Djono Ahaba Gotra, the president of the council of ministers in Central Africa Power Pool working on regional energy policy strategy, there was need for regional integration to favorize infrastructure development in terms of energy.