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SADC Scribe Calls for Scaling up Sustainable Development in Southern Africa

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SADC Executive Secretary Stargomena Lawrence Tax

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Southern African Development Community (SADC), an organization made up of 16 member states, was established in 1980.

It has as its mission to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy.

In September 2013, Ms Lawrence Stargomena Tax began as the fourth Executive Secretary of the organization. According to the official information, her second term of office ends in August 2021.

As Executive Secretary, her key responsibilities include engaging all the members as an economic bloc, overseeing and implementing various programmes and projects in the Southern African region.

She has a diverse employment career, including holding a top position as the Permanent Secretary at the Tanzanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation from 2008 to 2013, thereafter appointed as the Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at the 33rd Summit of the Heads of State and Government held in Lilongwe, Malawi.

In this insightful and wide-ranging farewell interview with Kester Kenn Klomegah in May, Executive Secretary Lawrence Stargomena Tax discussed the most significant achievements and challenges in deepening cooperation and promoting socio-economic development as well as peace and security, and further makes suggestions for the future of Southern Africa. Here are the interview excerpts:

What would you say, in a summarized assessment about your work, especially achievements and challenges, during your term of office as Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)?

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat is the Principal Executive Institution of SADC, and the SADC Executive Secretary leads the SADC Secretariat as mandated by Articles 14 and 15 of the Treaty establishing SADC.

Functions of the SADC Executive Secretary include overseeing: strategic planning for the Organisation; management, coordination and monitoring of SADC programmes; coordination and harmonization of policies and strategies; mobilization of resources; representation and promotion of SADC; and promotion of SADC regional integration and cooperation.

Achievements: SADC has recorded numerous achievements since its establishment, some of which were recorded during my term of office, from September 2013 to date 2021.

The functions of the Executive Secretary notwithstanding, the recorded milestones are a result of collective efforts by the Member States, the Secretariat, and other stakeholders, as well as teamwork by the staff of the secretariat.

Eight (8) years is quite a long time, as such several achievements and milestones were recorded during the eight years of my tenure in office, allow me to highlight some of the key ones as follows:

Consolidation of democracy, and sustenance of peace and security in the region. The SADC region remains stable and peaceful, notwithstanding, isolated challenges. This is attributed to solid systems and measures in place, such as our regional early warning, preventive and mediation mechanisms, which facilitate timely detection and re-dress of threats and challenges, and effective deployments of SADC electoral observation missions.

Examples during my tenure of office, include SADC preventive mission to the Kingdom of Lesotho, SADC peace and political support to the Democratic Republic of Congo, SADC mediation in Madagascar, SADC facilitation in Lesotho, and effective deployment of electoral observation Missions to the SADC Member States. To mitigate and address threats posed by cybercrime and terrorism, cybercrime and anti-terrorism strategy was adopted in 2016. The strategy is being implemented at regional and national levels.

In the historical-political space, the Southern African Liberation struggles were documented through the Hashim Mbita Publication, a publication that comprehensively and authentically documents the struggles in the three SADC languages, English, French and Portuguese. The Publication enables all, especially the youth to understand and appreciate the history and the Southern African Liberation.

Forging a long-term direction of SADC through the adoption of the SADC Vision 2050, which is transposed on the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030. Vision 2050 sets out the long-term aspirations of SADC over the next thirty (30) years, while the RISDP 2020-30 outlines a development trajectory for the Region for ten (10) years to 2030. Vision 2050 is based on a firm foundation of Peace, Security and Democratic Governance, and premised on three inter-related pillars, namely Industrial Development and Market Integration; Infrastructure Development in support of Regional Integration; and Social and Human Capital Development. This also goes hand in hand with frontloading of Industrialization that aims at transforming SADC economies technologically and economically. Industrialization remains SADC main economic integration agenda since April 2015, when the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063 was approved.

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By addressing the supply-side constraints as part of the implementation of the SADC industrialization strategy, cross border trade continues to grow, and the business environment has been improving, where the cost of doing business has been declining steadily and gradually. In addition, values chains were profiled, specifically in three priority sectors, namely mineral beneficiation, pharmaceutical and agro-processing, and a number of value chains have been developed and are being implemented. The Industrialization Strategy has also recognized the private sector as a major player in SADC industrialization and regional integration as a whole.

The adoption of the SADC Simplified Trade Regime Framework in 2019, which has contributed to the enhancement of trade facilitation, and adoption of the SADC Financial Inclusion and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Strategy that has enhanced financial inclusion in the Member States. Ten Member States have so far developed financial inclusion strategies, and there has been an 8 per cent improvement in financial inclusion to a tune of 68 per cent.

Introduction and operationalization of the SADC Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS), a multi-currency platform, which went live in October 2018. All Member States except Comoros are participating in the SADC-RTGS and a total of 85 banks are participating in the system. The SADC-RTGS has enabled the Member States to settle payments among themselves in real-time compared to previously when it used to take several days for banks to process cross border transactions. As of December 2020, 1,995,355 transactions were settled in the System, representing the value of South African Rands (ZAR) 7.81 Trillion.

Approval of the establishment of the SADC Regional Development Fund in 2015 which aims at mobilizing funds for key infrastructure and industrialization projects.

Realization of targets set in the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) that was approved in 2012, including the establishment of One-Stop Border Posts which entails joint control and management of border crossing activities by agents of the adjoining countries, using shared facilities, systems and streamlined procedure. These include:

One-Stop Border Posts at Chirundu Border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and Nakonde -Tunduma border between Tanzania and Zambia; a third One-Stop Border Post, about to be operationalised is at Kazungula Border between Botswana and Zambia, where the road-rail bridge has been completed.

Cross-border infrastructure projects, both hard and soft, that have facilitated assimilated, cost-effective, unified and efficient trans-national infrastructure networks and services were developed and are being implemented. These projects include cross-border transmission links in the several Member States using optical fibre technology, thereby, allowing landlocked Member States such as Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to connect to the submarine cables on either or both the east and west coast of Africa. Five (5) Member States (Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania) have achieved the 2025 SADC Broadband Target to cover 80% of their population, and eight (8) Member States, namely Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, have put in place National Broadband Plans or Strategies.

The installation and commissioning of more than 18300 Megawatts (MW) between 2014 and 2020 to meet the increasing power demand in the region. Connecting the remaining three (3) mainland Member States namely Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania to the Southern African Power Pool remains a priority, and to this effect, the Zambia-Tanzania Interconnector is at the construction phase.

The adoption of the Regional Water Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Flood Early Warning System in 2015. This has contributed to improvements in climate and weather forecasting, whereby a Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum has been established. The forum provides a platform for the Member States to review and discuss the socio-economic impacts and potential impacts of the climate outlook, including on food security, health, water and hydropower management, and disaster risk management.

The adoption of the SADC Disaster Preparedness and Response Strategy and Fund (2016-2030), which has contributed to the enhancement of regional disaster management and responses capacity.

A number of administrative milestones were also recorded during my tenure of office, including, institutional reforms, policy reviews, change management towards enhanced cooperate governance and effective delivery. Among others, the SADC Organization Structure was reviewed and streamlined in 2016 to deliver on the technological and economic transformation of the region, in line with the SADC Industrialization Strategy 2015-2063; and a number of policies and strategies, and guidelines were developed to enhance cooperate governance and change management.

As the first female Executive Secretary, since I joined the SADC Secretariat, Gender mainstreaming and Women empowerment were among the areas that I paid dedicated attention to. In this regard, all policies that were developed during my tenure mainstreamed gender and engendered women empowerment. A SADC Framework for Achieving Gender Parity in Political and Decision-Making positions was developed and provides strategies, and guidelines for strengthening the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development in order to ensure that at least 50 per cent of all decision-making positions at all levels would be held by women by 2030, and progress is encouraging.

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The Region also continued to intensify the fight against HIV and AIDS, TB and Malaria. To this effect, harmonized minimum standards for the prevention, treatment and management of the diseases were developed to promote health, through support for the control of communicable diseases; and preparedness, surveillance and responses during emergencies.

Here are the challenges: Challenges are expected in any organization, the most important thing is to address them timely and effectively. Challenges that I encouraged included:

A multi-cultural operating environment. This needed a high level of patience, and approaches that will facilitate inclusiveness and ownership. The challenges sometimes affected speed in terms of delivery, as one had to get a clear understanding of the issues at hand and devise appropriate problem-solving approaches.

Another problem is balancing diverse interests by the Member States. Sixteen (16) Member States is not a small number, each will have its own priorities and interests, which sometimes are not necessarily the same across the region or regional priorities. This needs one to be analytical and a quick thinker, applying negotiation and convincing skills.

The Region has also experienced a multiplicity of natural disasters with varying frequency and magnitude of impact, which sometimes occurred at an unprecedented scale, for example, Tropical Cyclone Idai with its devastating impacts, including loss of lives, displacement of people, and massive destruction to properties. In response, SADC strengthened the regional disaster preparedness and response coordination and resilience-building mechanisms, and more efforts are ongoing in this area.

The tail-end of my term of office encountered challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, which still remains a major concern and a challenge globally, and in almost all SADC Member States. On the response side, SADC has exhibited determination, solidarity and has undertaken several coordinated regional responses and put in place various harmonized measures to fight the pandemic and mitigate its socio-economic impacts. These include regulations for facilitation of cross border movement of essential goods, services and transport, which were speedily developed and adopted, and were also harmonized at the Tripartite level bringing on board the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC).

These measures contributed to the containment of the spread of COVID-19 and facilitated the continuity of socio-economic activities and livelihood of SADC citizens. The SADC Secretariat also carried out an in-depth assessment of the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on SADC economies. The assessment revealed a number of sectoral impacts. Based on the assessment, measures to address the challenges have been put in place at national and regional levels, and at the SADC Secretariat.

Whereas the region has progressed in terms of its objectives, it is yet to achieve its ultimate goal of ensuring economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life for the people of Southern Africa. Achieving this aspiration remains a challenge to be progressively tackled to the end.

The southern African region is unique in terms of stability and investment climate, but there are also differences in political culture, policies and approach toward development issues. How did you find “a common language” for all the 16 SADC leaders?

The common language of SADC revolves around basic tenets which include history, values and common agenda. Historically, the region has common principles and values. Dating back to the migration era, you will note that some of the parts of the SADC region are inhabited by the Bantu people who share some cultural similarities. Politically, the region united and stood in solidarity against colonialism a resolve that led to the liberation struggle that brought the Member States together (resulting in the formation of the Front Line States, then the Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference) to fight and break from colonialism.

In terms of values, SADC believes in mutual respect and equality. Although the Member States differ in size, wealth or development, they treat each other as equal sovereign states. Secondly, Member States make decisions through consensus, without anyone imposing on the other.

Lastly, SADC, like any other organization has a common agenda as spelt out in its Treaty, Article 5, which, among others, aims at promoting sustainable and equitable economic growth and social-economic development that will ensure poverty alleviation with the ultimate objective of its eradication, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people of Southern Africa and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration.” Based on the common agenda, a vision, and policies and strategies have been developed to guide the implementation and realization of the common agenda.

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Therefore, notwithstanding some differences in political culture, national policies and approaches towards development issues, the history of the region, the shared principles and values embraced by the organization, and its common agenda have always enabled the Region and the Member States to find a common ground, language and interest as a region, that is for all the 16 SADC Member States and SADC Leaders.

You have always advocated for an increased economic partnership and for sustainable development in the region. Do you agree that there is still insufficiently developed infrastructure in the industrial sector and other sectors in the region? How can the situation, most probably, be improved in the long term?

SADC recognises that a seamless and robust infrastructural network will create the requisite capacity for sustained economic growth, industrialisation and development. Measures to enhance infrastructure in the industrial sector and other sectors are in place and being implemented as part of the SADC industrialization Strategy 2015-2063, and the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan of 2012. It should however be noted that while steady progress is being recorded, investments in these areas require substantial resources and partnership between Public and Private Sectors. Estimates by the African Development Bank (AfDB), published in its African Economic Outlook of 2018, reveal that Africa’s annual infrastructure requirements amount to $130bn – $170bn, with a financing gap in the range of $68bn–$108bn. SADC, therefore, invites investors from within and outside the region to partner in these strategic areas for mutual benefits.

SADC has also established the Project Preparation and Development Facility (PPDF). The purpose of the PPDF funding is to enhance delivery on infrastructure development in the SADC Region, by bringing projects to bankability and as such facilitate investments by the private sector and/or cooperating partners.

SADC is also in a process of operationalizing the SADC Regional Development Fund that will, among others, mobilize funds for key infrastructure and industrialization projects.

How do you assess the economic potential in the region? What foreign players have shown keen interest and/or already playing significant roles in SADC? Within the context of AfCFTA, what may further attract them?

The SADC region is endowed with diverse natural resources, including almost all of the key minerals for feed-stocks into regional manufacturing, agriculture, construction, power and other sectors.

The Region has been cooperating with both the private sector and international cooperation partners to implement its various policies and strategies to ensure that the region benefits from its own economic potential.  Entering into force of the AfCFTA provides an opportunity to SADC in collaboration with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) to expedite the operationalization of the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area as a necessary pillar for the AfCFTA, and thus expanded cross-border and international investments and trade.

In spite the degree of development complexities, you have SADC in your heart. Do you feel you have left something undone for the region? What are your last words, expert views and suggestions for ensuring sustainable social and economic growth in the region and for the future of SADC?

SADC is about cooperation and regional integration, and this is a continuous process, not an event. With the progress made, the gains need to be sustained, while at the same time accelerating and deepening integration progressively in areas that are either ongoing or yet to be embarked upon, including taking a bold decision and establishing the long-overdue SADC Customs Union and expeditiously operationalize the SADC Development Fund.

Here are my last words. I call upon SADC to remain focused and bring about the envisaged sustainable social and economic growth for the benefit of SADC citizens, in line with the trajectory set by SADC Vision 2050 and Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2020-30, as supported by the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap 2015 – 2063, and the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan 2012. Member States should continue implementing these initiatives.

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Zimbabwe Woos More Russian Investors to Develop Economy

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Zimbabwean Minister SEKAI NZENZA Zimbabwe Woos

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Zimbabwe, among a few African countries, featured prominently at this year’s edition of the Russian International Industrial and Trade Fair during the first week of July in Ekaterinburg, a city in the Urals region about 1,700 kilometres from Moscow.

About 76 per cent of exhibitors are top managers of Russian and foreign companies, heads of regions and representatives of federal authorities.

Widely referred to as INNOPROM, it is the main industrial, trade and export platform organized annually in Russia. Due to COVID-19, about 90 countries participated in the trade fair held under the theme Flexible Manufacturing in Ekaterinburg, according to INNOPROM official website.

Industry and Commerce Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza, headed a sizeable business delegation, including officials from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA), Zimtrade, the CEO Roundtable, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) and the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe (IDCZ).

Zimbabwe and Russia have an overwhelmingly close diplomatic relationship. Russia has been stepping up economic investment in Zimbabwe. Based on that friendship, Nzenza was invited by Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov who was also the fair’s main guest.

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Nzenza’s office told Business Weekly that Zimbabwe had fruitful engagements with Russian companies that have expressed interest in the value addition of minerals such as tungsten, lithium and iron.

Russian firms are also keen to explore opportunities in agro-processing, phosphate, fertilizer and medical equipment as well as partnering local institutions in research and development.

There is scope for technology transfer from Russia to help retooling of local companies. Given the distance between the two countries, the perishability of fresh produce has been identified as a major impediment for growing exports to Russia, but the two countries have agreed to “work on that logistical challenge.”

Zimbabwe is currently exporting oranges to Russia and there is potential to increase exports of commodities such as garlic, ginger, macadamia, avocado, frozen fruits and vegetables as well as blueberries. Follow up meetings were held between business organizations in both countries.

She similarly told The Herald newspaper that the main focus participating at INNOPROM “is pushing Zimbabwe is open for business agenda and we are quite encouraged to participate at the fair.”

Russian companies are keen to invest in Zimbabwe’s various industries as the two countries further explore areas of economic cooperation. “The main focus is pushing Zimbabwe is open for business agenda we are quite encouraged to participate at the fair – an opportunity to meet potential Russian investors,” said Nzenza.

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As Zimbabwean Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Brigadier General Mike Nicholas Sango, noted in an exclusive interview with me, Russia and Zimbabwe have put in place structures and mechanisms for sustainable economic cooperation. Although Russia’s economy is under pressure from illegal sanctions and the depressed global economic environment, it is committed to assist Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.

He highlighted his government’s key priorities and expectations from Russia as follows:

Agriculture Support: Agriculture is the economic mainstay and provides 15% of GDP. Water harnessing through dam construction, irrigation mechanization, and agricultural machinery are key areas.

Infrastructure Development: Although the country has a fairly well-developed infrastructure, the road and rail infrastructure needs refurbishment and expansion to take trade volumes for the country as well as its neighbours to the north.

Mining: Zimbabwe is endowed with abundant unexploited resources.

Manufacturing: Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector has been hit hard by illegal economic sanctions. Most industries have outdated and expensive to run machinery. They are in dire need of retooling, refurbishment and funding.

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Tourism: Zimbabwe hosts one of the wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. Investment in infrastructure development in the hotels would complement the opening by larger airports to accommodate larger body aircraft.

President Mnangagwa’s administration adopted Zimbabwe is open for business policy meant to woo investors to help revive the economy. In 2019, President Mnangagwa met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin where the two leaders agreed to deepen economic cooperation between the two countries. Russia is one of the major sources of the country’s foreign direct investment, particularly in the mining sector.

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in Southeast Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the south-west, Zambia to the north, and Mozambique to the east. The capital and largest city is Harare.

With an approximate population of 14.5 million, Zimbabwe is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources. It is one of the 16 countries, with a collective responsibility to promote socio-economic cooperation, within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) created in 1980.

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Pan-African Payments System to Help Africa Save $5bn Annually

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China Africa AfCFTA

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Secretary-General of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Mr Wamkele Mene, has said that the planned launch of the Pan-African Payments and Settlements System (PAPSS) would save the continent an estimated $5 billion annually.

Mr Mene said this at the 2nd edition of the AfCFTA secretariat quarterly press briefing. He explained that the $5 billion would be saved from the accruals from conversions to Dollars.

He said that PAPSS, created in collaboration with the African Export-Import Bank (Afriexim bank), would address the currency conversion challenges for participating countries.

PAPSS is a centralised payment and settlement system created to serve the purpose of low cost and risk-controlled payment clearing and settlement system under intra-African trade.

He said that six countries had been set up for the pilot scheme, some of which include; Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

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Mr Mene projected that by the end of 2021, the secretariat would be in a position to reveal the platform’s availability for all countries to switch.

“There is an objective that one day, Africa would be a monetary union.

“Converting the about-42 currencies in Africa with its attendant cost of over five billion dollars yearly is a whole lot and so we want to reduce and eliminate this for the purpose of trading.

“Local banks would be able to switch to the platform as we are in consultation with the central banks and by the end of the year, we would be in a position to say the platform is available for all African countries that want to switch to it.

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“Afriexim bank has invested over one billion dollars and it is a strong signal that the AfCFTA would work.

“If you run a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) and you have to use a foreign platform for the transaction, which is constraining and costly.

“With this system of payments, we would be able to enhance the effectiveness and competitiveness of SME as it addresses the constraints and costs associated with trade,” he said.

Mr Mene also noted that the Rules of Origin mechanism of trade was at 86 per cent completion, even though the secretariat was gearing for 90 per cent completion before application.

The AfCFTA chief stated that sensitisation and advocacy campaigns on the intricacies of the AfCFTA were a shared responsibility between participating states and the AfCFTA secretariat.

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He revealed that an Africa business forum for the whole continent would be hosted later in the year to raise additional awareness.

This, Mr Mene, said would also serve as a complementary step to what the various participating countries’ governments were already doing nationally on sensitisation.

“It is very important that the private sector is aware that there are export opportunities that this market creates and how they can maximally benefit from it.

“In all my visits to various participating countries, I have met with the private sector as a way to inform and incorporate them into what the AfCFTA is about,” he said.

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Africa Needs to Eradicate Energy Poverty—NJ Ayuk

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NJ Ayuk Energy Poverty

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Understandably, energy is expected to drive Africa’s economic prosperity. In order to make great strides in the industrial sector and attain a high-level of sustainable development, for instance, energy is the key determining factor, argues NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, a pan-African company that focuses on research, documentation, negotiations and transactions in the energy sector.

According to him, scaling up Africa’s production capacity in order to achieve universal access to energy is a challenging task and points to the need for a transformative partnership-based strategy that aims to increase access to energy for all Africans.

He further talks about transparency, good governance and policies that could create a favourable investment climate, especially in the energy sector.

Speaking in an insightful interview with Kester Kenn Klomegah in early July 2021, NJ Ayuk unreservedly calls for strong foreign partnerships in harnessing and distribution of energy, stresses the significance of foreign investment in large-scale exploration projects in African countries.

Within the context of the newly created African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), he suggests that politicians, investors and stakeholders need to change the business perception and create an entirely new outlook into the future. Here are the interview excerpts:

What are the popular narratives about energy sources, production and utilization in Africa? In your expert view, how would you characterize energy needs in Africa?

The popular narratives are the prevalence of energy poverty on the continent. Most of the oil and gas producing countries have some kind of conflict going on in the area which affects the local people and the companies which choose to invest in these areas. For a country like Ghana, for example, we have seen the upside of the effective way of carrying out oil production, a major contribution has been its transparency and its policies.

African countries do, however, suffer from the policies they draft which take years to implement, and if implemented take long to administer the contracts for production to take effect. With that said, the effect on the upstream sector automatically affects the midstream and downstream, sectors, which essentially affects the economy of the different countries.

It’s without a doubt that energy poverty needs to be eradicated. Africa has the world’s lowest per capita energy consumption: with 16 per cent of the world’s population (1.18 billion out of 7.35 billion populations), it consumes about 3.3 per cent of global primary energy. Of all energy sources, Africa consumes the most oil (42 per cent of its total energy consumption) followed by gas (28 per cent), coal (22 per cent), hydro (6 per cent), renewable energy (1 per cent) and nuclear (1 per cent). South Africa is the world’s seventh-largest coal producer and accounts for 94 per cent of Africa’s coal production.

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Africa’s renewable energy resources are diverse, unevenly distributed and enormous in quantity — almost unlimited solar potential (10 TW), abundant hydro (350 GW), wind (110 GW) and geothermal energy sources (15 GW). Energy from biomass accounts for more than 30 per cent of the energy consumed in Africa and more than 80 per cent in many sub-Saharan African countries. Sub-Saharan Africa has undiscovered, but technically recoverable, energy resources estimated at about 115.34 billion barrels of oil and 21.05 trillion cubic metres of gas.

Do African leaders see some of the controversial issues, in the same way, as you have discussed above?

In my opinion, African leaders do take heed of what has been discussed above but are too slow to tackle the issues, which eventually then build up. The effect of that is that once they have eventually tackled the first problem, they realize others have piled up and have to continue digging. Leaders also need to start bringing young people to the table who have fresher eyes and valuable contributions because of the times they live and are growing up in. A major contribution to that is the internet.

How do you assess the impact of energy deficit most especially within the context of the fourth industrial revolution? Is energy finance the determining factor here?

Firstly, we need good governance that creates an enabling environment for widespread economic growth and improved infrastructure. African leaders need an unwavering determination to make Africa work for us, even when there are missteps and things go wrong.

Without stability, projects and contracts cannot take effect. A recent example is an insurgency in Mozambique which has claimed lives but put a halt to a project which would have had a positive impact not only on Mozambique and its region but the entire continent. But now, we have to look ahead and not dwell on the shortcomings or pitfalls.

In order to change the tide and spur a post-pandemic recovery in the energy sector that will also enhance overall economic growth in Africa, African leaders must double their efforts to attract investment into their energy sectors. They must put in place timely and market-relevant strategies to deal with external headwinds like the drive to decarbonize globally and evolving demand patterns for energy internally and hydrocarbons globally. They must end restrictive fiscal regimes, inefficient and carbon-intensive production, cut bureaucracy and other difficulties in doing business that is preventing the industry from reaching its full potential.

What individual countries have set exceptional examples, at least, in offering energy and its utilization both in the urban cities and remote towns?

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Consider the impact of energy deficiency. Approximately 840 million Africans, mostly in sub-Saharan countries, have no access to electricity. Hundreds of millions have unreliable or limited power at best.

Even during normal circumstances, energy poverty should not be the reality to most Africans. The household air pollution created by burning biomass, including wood and animal waste, to cook and heat homes has been blamed for as many as 4 million deaths per year. How will this play out during the pandemic? For women forced to leave their homes to obtain and prepare food, sheltering in place is nearly impossible. What about those who need to be hospitalized? Only 28 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s health care facilities have reliable power. Physicians and nurses can’t even count on the lights being on, let alone the ability to treat patients with equipment that requires electricity — or store blood, medications, or vaccines. All of this puts African lives are at risk.

Africa does not need social programs, even educational programs, that come in the form of aid packages. What’s more, offering Africa aid packages to compensate for a halt or slow-down of oil and gas operations will not do Africans any good. This is not the time for Africa to be calling for more aid.

Africa has been receiving aid for nearly six decades, and what good has it done? We still don’t have enough jobs. Investment creates opportunities. We, as Africans, must be responsible. Our young people should be empowered to build an Africa we all can be proud of. Relying on the same old policies of the past, relying on aid, simply isn’t going to get us there.

Do you support expert views about “energy mix” — a combination of wind, solar, hydro and nuclear power? Why nuclear is still bug down with problems in Africa?

Straightway I would like to say yes. Africa must continue to bank on all forms of energy to address its shortfall in Energy production and distribution. From country to country, access to the generating resource will differ. Therefore, countries should focus on those resources to which they have easy and affordable access. Nuclear continues to be least accessible in Africa, due to the absence of technology and the high upfront construction costs associated with building such plants.

Africa has an almost unlimited renewable energy capacity, abundant access to solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal sources; however, except for a few large-scale projects, such potential is not adequately developed. What the continent needs is to reach a balance between reaching its energy transition goals and exploiting its natural resources, particularly natural gas, to ramp up power generation, generate jobs, and as a source of revenue. Natural gas’ potential to breathe new life into struggling African economies that are still reeling from the brutal economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Natural gas, affordable and abundant in Africa, has the power to spark significant job creation and capacity-building opportunities, economic diversification and growth. I am not saying that African nations should continue oil and gas operations indefinitely, with no movement toward renewable energy sources. I am saying that we should be setting the timetable for our own transition, and we should be deciding how it’s carried out. What I’d like to see, instead of Western pressure to bring African oil and gas activities to an abrupt halt, is a cooperative effort.

A number of foreign countries and private energy investing giants have shown interest in the energy sector. How do you assess the dynamics of their performance on the continent?

Local content is a pillar of the industry’s sustainability efforts. Sustainable development of African economies can only be attained by the development of local industry — by investing in Africans, building up African entrepreneurs and supporting the creation of indigenous companies. Oil companies have an unmatched ability, and a profound responsibility, to support countries in shaping an economy that works for all Senegalese and preserves their freedoms.

What is your view of Russia, considered as an energy giant, for instance, teaming up with China in Africa? Can both have a unified approach to collaborating on issues of energy projects in Africa?

First and foremost, Africa has already made an indelible mark in the oil and gas industry. I think Russian companies have to do more to really get involved. I always say that Africans want to get married, but Russians just want only to date. We need to change that and become more accountable. Both our compatriots expect better and more from our energy sectors.

As far as China and Russia are concerned, if both countries can avoid applying a “one size fits all” approach, so much good can come out of our oil and gas relationship with Russia. Africa has a lot to gain from Russian involvement and vice versa. Both must work towards empowering each other with concrete projects that bring benefit to investors and communities in which projects are situated. To be fair, positive developments from Russia and China don’t go unnoticed as their active presence in the continent leaves room for greater opportunities towards the energy mix.

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