9 July 2010, The Monitor
East African countries are set to benefit from a $2.5 million (Shs5.6 billion) power capacity building and technical assistance from the United States Aid for International Development. The two-year initiative will be channeled through the East Africa Power Pool (EAPP), a specialised institution under Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa); to improve access to affordable, clean energy through regional electricity trade exchange.
Speaking at the launch of this fund recently in Rwanda, Kigali, Mr Sindiso Ngwenya, the Comesa secretary general said: "It's disappointing that Africa's energy is scarce and expensive in spite of the huge energy potential that the continent is endowed with."
According to statistics high energy costs have always been an impediment to achieving competitiveness and pro poor economic growth. Mr Ngwenya said: "As you are aware, installed capacity of electric power of the Comesa region is about 38,000 megawatts of which about 73 per cent is thermal and 26 per cent hydro. The effective generation is less than the installed capacity by more than 20 per cent due to a combination of factors such as drought, lack of maintenance and rehabilitation"
When compared to the percentage of the population that has access to electricity in most Comesa member States, with the exception of Egypt (99 per cent) and Mauritius (99 per cent), countries like Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi vary between 15 and 25 per cent whereas Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Swaziland and Sudan are in the range of 20-35 per cent and Zimbabwe 41 per cent.
Mr Ngwanya added: "This indicates that a high percentage of Africa's population is waiting to get the feel of being connected to power supply." Through the Powering Progress, USAID /East Africa, will help increase EAPP's capacity to exploit clean and renewable energy resource.