Baz Waiswa

Baz Waiswa

Africa's Energy Transition Must Be African At Heart And In Practice

By Verner Ayukegba

Africa is at an energy cross-road. On one hand, the most talented, better educated, most entrepreneurial and competitive generation the continent has ever had is rising and taking on leadership positions that will propel African companies to become more competitive.

After many turbulent decades, most corners of the continent have found the necessary political and economic stability to strategize for a better future making use of their natural resources and wealth. Nowhere else on planet Earth are economies and populations expected to grow faster than in the mother-continent.

After such a long time dealing with the problems of the past, Africans can look to the future with the promise of a better life. After all, when it comes to natural resources such oil, gas, coal, diamonds, rare earths, woods, or agricultural potential and legacy-free technological development, there is no place like Africa.

Over the last decade, most of the world's biggest oil and gas discoveries took place on the African continent, and rapidly developing indigenous companies are ensuring these resources serve Africans and African economies more than they ever did before, resources that will power industries, light homes and create wealth.

Our time to rise is finally here

I have had the chance to witness this with my own eyes. From Equatorial Guinea to South Africa, from Angola to Mozambique and from Kenya to Senegal, the energy industry, the one I know best and the one closest to my heart, is revolutionizing life. Political leaders are willing to learn from the mistakes of the past to improve resource management, contract negotiations and environmental protection policies. 

Most of all, they have developed local content policies that potentiate the participation of Africans in these industries. Oil and gas training programmes and university degrees that cater to the industry like engineering are now more common than ever.

These programs are educating and giving opportunities for numerous Africans to find work in the industry and further, to start their own companies within the industry's supply chain. While the drive to strengthen the integration of the energy sector and other extractive industries with the rest of the economic system is far from complete, it has certainly been fundamental in developing Nigeria's indigenous upstream sector or in building a truly native gas industry in Equatorial Guinea.

In Nigeria for example, this critical mass of local talent has been instrumental in the establishment of regional energy giants like Seplat Petroleum, Sahara Energy, Atlas Petroleum International Limited and Shoreline Natural Resources, whose influence is felt more and more beyond Nigeria's boarders.

Local content clauses in contracts are the way African leaders assure that the exploitation of the local natural resources has a trickle-down effect on the local economy, through job-creation and increasing local participation in the value chain the industry brings with it.

Furthermore, most recent localization strategies for the oil and gas sector have been successful in developing truly native associated industries, particularly within the natural gas supply chain.

As the Africa Energy Chamber has advocated since its establishment, we are finally seeing petrochemical plants, fertilizer plants and gas-fired power plants popping up across the continent. An African natural gas economy is growing where before the plague of flaring stood unmatched.

Intra-African trade in both natural gas and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is also likely to rise significantly, on the back of rapid urbanization and development across the continent which is set to increase energy consumption on the continent by more than 50% before 2040, This will speed up wealth creation and capacity building across borders.

Following the oil price crash of 2014, many countries across Africa have sought to reposition themselves to attract investment into their energy sectors through the introduction of varying incentives. These incentives ranged from granting tax breaks to potential investors to reducing bureaucracy affecting the sector.

On the other hand, the recent global climate change discourse which has also intentionally sought to demonize and simply hinder investments into Africa's oil and gas sector, poses a new challenge to the growth of the sector in Africa.

Worryingly, these two issues are taking attention away from the need to ensure that the African energy industry benefits Africans at large and fulfils its transformative potential to raise the continent out of poverty.

The African energy transition will not be made in the West

The issue of climate change has come to dominate the global debate over the energy sector. An energy transition is necessary to tackle the effects of CO2 emissions on a planetary scale. While Africa has contributed only a miniscule part of those emissions, it stands to suffer the most from the effects of this change, and must as well prepare for a progressive shift in its energy structure.

In many ways, the channelling of natural gas for power generation and the upgrading of oil and gas infrastructure and equipment to improve efficiencies and reduce the industry's carbon footprint is already going a long way to achieve that. New renewable energy projects from Kenya to South Africa will also help balance out the continent's energy matrix as it expands its electrification rates to reach every African in every corner of the continent.

Many international and foreign institutions have already started to share their expertise and support with African governments and many foreign investors have started to develop their own projects in the mother-continent. Wind farms, solar parks, geothermal drilling, hydropower plants, etc, are taking advantage of each region's available resources.

Here too, these renewable resources must be used for the benefit of Africans, and they must be developed with the participation of Africans and in a manner that is sustainable economically and to a scale that is capable to supporting the growth of industry that provides for good paying jobs.

It is fundamental that these new technologies and sources of energy suit the communities which they are meant to serve. Climate concerns cannot side line discussions over local content and localization strategies. They must go hand in hand, be one and the same, or else we may again find ourselves dependent on foreign knowledge to provide for our energy needs. Such dependence is unlikely to lead to the mass scale of development with the potential to lift large swaths of the population out of poverty.

Education programs and employment clauses are a fundamental step of the energy transition and not a secondary aspect of it. Market-driven local content frameworks need to be designed for capacity building, employment generation and overall enforcing a value-adding multiplying effect in our economies.

This debate is now more important than ever, as Africa opens up to new industries and to greater trade integration. As more and more African nations gain the expertise to explore their natural resources for the betterment of their economies and their people, we need to see further integration and cooperation between them, so that the continent can take advantage of synergies that different regions and industries can offer.

Already, we see examples of gas-poor countries like South Africa investing in natural gas and LNG projects in gas rich Mozambique with the aim of reducing their growing energy deficit. As demand rises, exploration will accelerate and so will the use of the vast gas resources, including those that continue to be wasted through flaring.

The African Continental Free Trade Zone is an ideal platform to promote the development of an intra-African natural gas trade that will promote widespread economic growth and access to power.

Again, it is fundamental that these developments are pegged to well implemented and designed local content policies, so that Africans can truly benefit from the exploitation of their continent's resources, and by so doing, ensure that Africa's energy transition will be driven and made sustainable by those that will transition with it.

Verner Ayukegba is the Senior Vice President with the African Energy Chamber and Director of Operations at DMWA Resources, a pan-African energy marketing & investment firm.

Reflect On Your Business, Prepare It For When Coronavirus Ends, Rajiv

Rajiv Ruparelia, the managing director of Ruparelia Group, and only son of businessman Dr Sudhir Ruparelia believes that the lockdown caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has presented an opportunity for every entrepreneur to reflect on how they are running their enterprises.

He says that while ‘it is not an easy time to be confined at home but there are a lot of productive things you can do in this period of coronavirus.’

“One is spending time with your family; two is reflecting on your business, to make your business stronger when coronavirus ends; three is to be able to really digest the important things in life,” he added.

He added: “I really believe the world was moving too fast and this is the time for things to slow down. We are already seeing a recovery in our environmental system, the climate is getting better, the horizon layer is repairing itself.

“There are positive things coming out of this lockdown. It is about being patient and reflecting on life. Please respect the guidelines, not for anybody's interest but your own interest. Lockout for yourself, look out for your families, protect each other and love one another,”

Uganda has so far confirmed 53 coronavirus cases with no death. The victims now undergoing treatment in various government facilities are steadily responding to medication.

As of Friday evening, over 1.6m people globally have fallen ill as a resulting of testing positive for COVID-19. Of these, 101,577 have died and 372, 439 have recovered.  

And in its effort to combat the virus, like what many other countries did, Uganda closed its borders and airport to prohibit any person from coming into or leaving the country.

Through directives delivered by President Yoweri Museveni, all public and private means of transport including boda boda were prohibited from unnecessary movements. The president also announced a curfew from 7 pm to 6: am.    

These measures have curtailed people’s work and businesses. It is believed that after COVID-19, life will in all aspect not be the same including how people work and do business. Entrepreneurs are being advised to prepare for this a yet to known transition.

River Rwizi Restoration Ambition On Course Despite Pressure On Supporting Wetlands

Efforts to restore River Rwizi in western Uganda are picking up momentum with stakeholders each day emphasizing their commitment to having the water body restored to its natural state after many years of degradation.

This year, as part of the Water and Environment Week commemoration, a two-day symposium on the restoration of River Rwizi Catchment was planned on 19th and 20th March in Mbarara but a COVID-19 scare and a ban on the public gathering by President Yoweri Museveni reduced it to half a day on 19th March at Lake View Hotel in Mbarara.

The symposium convened by Advocates Coalition for Development (ACODE) in partnership with Ministry of Water & Environment (MWE), National Planning Authority (NPA), Mbarara District Local Government, Green Economy Coalition (GEC) and Youth Go Green was responding to the need to save River Rwizi.

The over 8,200km long river, commencing its gentle journey from its base in Buhweju & snaking through the hills and valleys of Ankole supplying domestic, agricultural and industrial water to people along its course connecting to Lake Victoria, its final destination, has suffered the wrath of the very people it serves.

River Rwizi, serving about 12 local government administrative districts in the vast great Ankole subregion has over the years been facing extinction due to human activities that have degraded wetlands surrounding it. Its water levels have significantly dried up.

Human activities like sand mining, industrial dumping, planting of eucalyptus trees, farming and intentional blocking of the river course have threatened its existence; something environmentalists who spoke at the symposium condemned and vowed to defeat through a multi-sectoral approach.

JB Tumusiime, the Mbarara District chairperson, also the chairman Rwizi Catchment Management Committee, noted that ministry of water and environment, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the district leadership alone cannot fight this vice and succeed.

“The restoration of degraded wetlands requires a multi-sectoral approach. It is everybody’s role. It is every leader’s role to make sure that we restore the wetlands,” Tumusiime said at the symposium encouraging politicians intending to vie for political offices not to interfere with the works of the technical team working to end degrading of wetlands supporting River Rwizi.

Innocent Nabaasa, an official from NEMA, in his presentation revealed that the ‘level of impunity’ by people permanently blocking the river is high.

“People no longer access water anymore. The river provides water for watering of animals. And because of the blockages due to unregulated human activities, the river is forced to change its course,” noted Nabaasa.

Louis Mugisha, of Victoria Management Zone at the ministry of water and environment, in agreement with Nabaasa acknowledged that they have lived with the impunity for too long it has been normalized.

He said the ministry is working on restoring wetlands, working on enhancing of water storage at various catchment centres, demarcating River Rwizi, fundraising for needed funds, improving livelihoods of people living around the affected water bodies among other interventions.

Dr Arthur Bainomugisha, the executive director of ACODE, noted that the experience of River Rwizi will guide them on how to approach other water bodies facing similar challenges in the country.

 

“River Rwizi is not the only river suffering. River Mpologoma and River Kafu are rivers that are dying and the experience we get here is what we will use to work on these other rivers,” Dr Bainomugisha said.

The minister and other stakeholders used the symposium to launch the Rwizi Management Plan before planting symbolic trees in the backyard of Lake View Hotel as a commitment to continue protecting the environment. The theme of the symposium was 'transition to a green economy in Uganda; restoration of River Rwizi Catchment for sustainable livelihoods,'. 

The minister of state for environment Beatrice Anywar in her speech commended the intervention by various stakeholders but noted the need to involve more stakeholders. "We need to do more. Stop degrading our environment. In the near future, we shall not want the use of plastics in this country. Talking must stop and take action." 

CSOs Want MPs To Censure Energy Minister Over Murchison Falls Feasibility Study

Over 19 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have written to the Speaker of Parliament requesting that parliamentarians censure the minister of energy over the energy ministry's continued push to develop a dam at Murchison Falls.

In a letter to the Speaker of Parliament Alitwala Rebecca Kadaga, the CSOs described government’s interest in carrying out a feasibility study for a dam at Murchison Falls on River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) as unfortunate because of known environment risks.

When appearing before parliament’s Natural Resources Committee last month, State Minister for Energy, Simon D’Ujanga indicated that government would go ahead with conducting a feasibility study for a planned dam at the Murchison Falls.

The minister also confirmed that the government of Uganda signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Africa’s Bonang Power and Energy Ltd to undertake the feasibility study in December 2019.

This was in total disregard of parliament and other Ugandans’ objection to the planned dam, the CSOs said, adding that an electricity-generating dam at Murchison Falls will inevitably destroy the Murchison Falls landscape which is a major eco-system and tourism site.

“Clearly, the minister and executive’s position to go ahead with the feasibility study undermines the role of parliament as an institution that represents all Ugandans. The minister and executive’s position is also against public interest as it will hurt community livelihoods, tourism, fisheries, employment opportunities and cultures among others. This has been variously pointed out by many stakeholders including communities, cultural institutions, CSOs, tour operators, government agencies and others.

It is noteworthy that government is also going against Ugandans’ wishes on a dam at Murchison Falls when available evidence shows that government’s spending spree on hydropower dams has only increased Uganda’s indebtedness amidst low power access, high power prices, low job creation, increased poverty rates from 19% to 27% and unacceptable destruction of biodiversity.

For the government to desire to construct another hydropower dam and destroy the mighty Murchison Falls amidst the above failures demonstrates the highest level of government failure to appreciate the importance of tourism and other industries in the country. It also demonstrates a high level of impunity.

Through this letter, the undersigned CSOs are calling on parliament to use the powers vested in the institution under Article 118 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution to censure the minister of energy and stop impunity. This will serve as a warning to other government officials who disregard the recommendations of institutions such as parliament and the voices of Ugandans.

Parliament is our hope to fight government impunity that has led to the destruction of environmental resources including forests, national parks, rivers, lakes, wetlands and others. Let us not allow Murchison Falls to also get destroyed,” reads part of the letter dated February 26, 2020.

 

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