Energy: Democratisation Of Innovation And What It Means For Africa

By Sabine Dall’Omo

Without technological constraints, more people from across Africa are free to innovate and create on the global stage; democratisation of energy is necessary to enable Africans to move into the digital age.

The term ‘Democratisation of Technology’ has become synonymous with the digital age. In a nutshell, it means that access to advanced technology is no longer the domain of a privileged few, but that more and more people are benefitting from access to smart technologies which is rapidly levelling the playing field of global innovation.

One of the deciding factors in who has access to this technology, is the distribution of energy. In order to ensure the equality of technology we first need to solve the problem of unreliable energy.

The concept that energy must come from one central source is inefficient and outdated. By decentralising energy and allowing people to generate and use energy as needed, you’re allowing people to take charge of their own prosperity.

In a continent like Africa, with the incredible opportunity for solar and wind generated energy, keeping energy centralised severely hampers the potential for economic growth.

Microgrids are an effective way to quickly and effectively diversify a centralised energy grid. By employing microgrids you not only take the strain off the central grid and lower your carbon footprint, you also create economic opportunities where people can sell off excess energy produced.

The Brooklyn Microgrid project is an excellent example of how clean energy can be turned into thriving micro-economies. In this case, LO3 Energy, a company based in New York US, working alongside Siemens have installed a solar-powered microgrid.

In addition to generating clean energy for its own use, the company also installed a blockchain enabled transactive energy platform. This means any unused energy can be sold, generating a new revenue stream.

The same system could be put in place in certain parts of Africa. A shop or building even in remote parts of the country, for example, could install a microgrid and sell off excess energy to surrounding businesses.

You could take it one step further and create a transparent energy retail environment where a resident in another part of the country, could choose to top-up their electricity directly from a microgrid supplier based elsewhere.

By diversifying energy through microgrid technology, we can very quickly create new income streams in disadvantaged areas while at the same time growing and stabilising access to energy. This, in turn, will kickstart real democratisation of energy. 

Our Siemens office in Midrand is equipped with a microgrid and now uses 50% less power off the central grid. The office has gone more than a year with uninterrupted power and has saved about 2 460 tons of CO2 since the system was opened (174 000 kWh per month).

Enabling democratisation of technology

Through energy comes wider access to communication and the ability to participate in global conversations through online connectivity. This in turn nurtures creativity, innovation and economic growth.

Traditionally, the journey from ‘idea’ to ‘successful product or business’ is a complicated process involving business cases, pitches for funding to build a prototype, raising capital investment for production and testing, wading through patent approvals and trademark law.

While many of these steps are still crucial once you have a working prototype, the democratisation of technology makes it easier for inventors and entrepreneurs to develop their ideas.

SME’s are vital economic drivers and making it easier for them to compete will benefit the economy as a whole.

Digital twinning is one example that streamlines the production process. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical product or process, used to understand and predict the physical counterpart’s performance characteristics. Digital twins are used throughout the product lifecycle to simulate, predict, and optimise the product and production system before investing in physical prototypes and assets.

This means innovators can test their products in the virtual world and refine it before ever needing to raise money for testing.

Real-life testing is still vital with most products, but with digital twinning you can get your product as close to perfect in the virtual world in order to save time and costs when it comes to the final real-life test phase.

In many ways this agility levels the playing field giving small, developing companies (and countries) the same opportunities as their bigger and more established counterparts.

Siemens also offers this technology free to universities. Students have access to a free version of the same easy-to-use software suite used by professionals. In addition to free software, we provide tutorials, webinars, online courses and certification to help them develop their skills.

Breaking down barriers

Through access to technology anyone, anywhere, has the opportunity to create a thriving business or economy. Across Africa it can play a large role in the empowerment of women and youth development.

One example is our Siemens Fabric campaign, which was set on the global stage, but all the fabric produced for the initiative was made by a small female-owned business situated in Alexandra, Gauteng. Legae Larona Sewing Cooperative in Alex now forms part of the Siemens Enterprise Development programme.

This is where you start seeing the results of the democratisation of technology – when an innovator from a small community in a developing nation has the same access to opportunity as those operating from high-tech offices in the first world.

It’s not yet a perfect system, but through the clever use of technology we can exponentially increase access to opportunity.

Sabine Dall’Omo is the CEO of Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa

EACOP Land Acquisition: Little Was From Refinery & CPF Projects

By Sandra Atusinguza

By nature, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project (EACOP) is of a Trans boundary nature with cross boarder social and environmental impacts between Uganda and Tanzania however a lot of internal (Uganda) issues and concerns about the project have observed during AFIEGO’s contestant engagements with the projects affected persons in the EACOP corridors in Kikuube, Hoima, Kakumiro, Mubende, Sembabule, Mityana and other districts.

The communities have fears that loss of property especially land where the projects affected persons practice farming may put them at a risk of hunger, as it has been the practice as oil companies and sub-contractors state they are complying with international best practices and standards by issuing cut-off dates on PAP’s and take a lengthy period to fully compensate them.

Difficulties in reading and understanding assessment forms compiled in english language along the EACOP corridors yet most PAP’s are illiterate, just as the custom in similar projects in particular the refinery project; communities have not been able to properly understand what their property is worth after assessments due to language barriers.

There is limited information about the EACOP project areas, the information gap on project impacts & its related aspects such as on land & compensation processes. Information shared is simply about the maps/GPS display dates and venues, amount of land required but not the project potential impacts on the environment, social-cultural, economic and others to be impacted.

PAPs mishandled during land acquisition for the pipeline for instance the subcontractors did not access and refused to compensate crops affected by surveys in first phase of the project while conducting feasibility studies. The land acquisition and compensation process is characterized by secrecy, PAPs are not provided with copies of compensation rates alongside the assessment forms.

The EACOP project PAP’s have on several occasions been ambushed by land acquisition and compensation sub-contractors companies (New Plan and ICS) on behalf of Total E&P to sign on assessment forms, yet a lot of missing items on GPS/strip maps during public displays had been observed.

I would recommend that prior notices and a member of the district land board (the secretary or district vauler) a community leader such as local council chairperson to move along with sub - contractors undertaking compensation for oil and gas projects in different areas whenever they are to move in to communities.

As more land for related oil and gas infrastructure is being acquired, developers and governments’ regulatory frameworks and policies such as the Land Acquisition and Resettlement Framework for oil and gas projects should be comprehensively implemented alongside other laws and regulations on compensation and land acquisition

Multiple re-displacements by similar oil and gas projects PAP’s in different communities should be addressed by prior planning, marking and gazzetting areas most likely to be affected by any development infrastructures by key stakeholders( M           EMD, MLHUD, NPA and many more) so that people are not relocated in such areas, a case in point is some households refinery PAP’ government relocated to Kyakaboga in Buseruka sub county and are currently re-affected by feeder pipelines from Buliisa to the Refinery.

Finally information about the EACOP must be made public, and in the languages the communities understand best, NEMA recently called for public comments on the same project by 30th August 2019 and plans for the EACOP public hearings are in the pipeline thus directly and indirectly communities ought to understand what to submit and comment.


AFIEGO Field coordinator

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Oil-Induced Insecurity In Nigeria: Lessons For Uganda

By Diana Nabiruma

On August 8, 2019, I found myself surrounded by guns. I was in Nigeria and together with civil society actors working in the oil sector from 15 countries, we planned to make a trip to the Niger Delta.

The Niger delta is where Nigeria’s over 2 million barrels of oil per day are produced. Oil is important in Nigeria. It accounts for about 90% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. Oil revenues also support about 80% of Nigeria’s budget. If I may repeat myself, there is no doubt that oil is an important resource for Nigeria.

However, the resource has also borne strife and was the reason we were surrounded by guns on August 8, 2019. While the Nigerian government has reaped revenues from oil, communities in the oil-producing Niger delta have reaped poverty, contamination of their soils, destruction of their water, high infant mortality rates, cancers, other diseases and all forms of misery!

Beginning in 2006, UNEP undertook an environmental assessment of Ogoniland in the Niger delta that highlighted the level of destruction of communities’ livelihoods, health and the environment. UNEP assessed the impact of oil spills on soils, vegetation, surface water, ground water, the air, public health and others. The organisation found that soils, groundwater and air in Ogoniland were polluted.

The above were polluted because of oil spills.  Statistics from Nigeria’s Department of Petroleum show that between 1976 and 1996, a total of 1.89 million barrels of oil was spilled into the Niger Delta!

A 2006 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report showed that a whole 6, 817 oil spills in which 3 million barrels of oil were spilled into the Niger Delta occurred between 1976 and 2001!

What have the oil spills got to do with our being surrounded by guns?

Because of the oil spills, communities’ incomes declined. One 2006 study showed that farmers’ incomes plummeted by as much as 5% in five villages in the Niger Delta because of oil spills. Flaring (burning of gas) compounded matters as it reduces food productivity by as much as 10%. This effect is felt within 10km of flaring. Fishing was also affected as creeks were polluted.

Incomes were affected because of the above. Yet this was not the only impact to be experienced.

Pollution of soils and waters meant that communities were eating and drinking polluted food and water. Infant mortality rates also increased with available data showing that neonatal mortality rates increased by as much as 100% for children whose mothers lived near an oil spill site before their conception.

Angry and hungry, communities turned to militancy and kidnappings to make a living. These kidnappings were the reason we needed guns to visit Ogoniland in the Niger delta.

“Don’t take a bus to Rivers State [where the Niger Delta is]. Use air transport if you can. The rate of kidnappings there is too high,” a passenger I shared a seat with on the way to Nigeria on August 5, 2019 told me.

I thought he was being too cautionary.

When we were surrounded by guns wielded by army men in our bus and a lead car full of other army men, I recalled his advice.

I asked why we needed so many army men.

“If you don’t have armed army men, you will be kidnapped.”

While the guns were meant to make me feel secure, I also felt very insecure. The presence of all those guns demonstrated that we were faced with serious threats. The 2018 Global kidnap-for-ransom report shows that at over 15% Nigeria has the highest kidnapping rates in the world.

Why am I relating the above? Why is the situation relevant for Uganda?

Uganda’s oil sector is being run in a manner that will no doubt result in negative impacts. Key information on agreements with oil companies, revised Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) reports and others is kept secret. This means that government could sign bad deals and make bad decisions that will lead to negative oil impacts.

Further, communities are not feeling the benefits of oil. Uganda has earned oil revenues from capital gains tax (CGT), signature bonuses and others. However, a look at the communities where oil is based can make one cry. At the public hearing held on the Kingfisher oil project’s ESIA in Kikuube district in June 2019, poor communities kept begging CNOOC to provide them with social services such as schools and hospitals!

The communities are poor. Meanwhile, in 2016, the president ‘gifted’ 42 government officials Shs 6 billion oil money for doing their job of enabling Uganda get CGT from Tullow Oil! This money could have benefitted communities.

In addition, NEMA and the Petroleum Authority of Uganda organise public hearings attended by poorly informed communities on Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) reports which they use to legitimise decisions allowing oil in sensitive ecosystems.

Experiences from Africa and indeed even the developed countries show that oil spills have not been avoided in sensitive ecosystems such as rivers, forests and others.

Based on the above and others, it is clear that the recipes such as denying communities oil benefits, the potential for oil spills and others exist in Uganda. It is such factors and others that turned frustrated Nigerian communities including youth into kidnappers.

Kidnappings are already taking place in Uganda and we don’t want to worsen the situation. The kidnapping rate for Uganda is 1.8%.

Therefore, efforts to ensure that communities effectively participate in oil processes, that their land is not taken at a pittance such that they lose their only factor of production and that on a whole, their lives are not destroyed by oil must be made.

The writer is a Senior Communications Officer with Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO).

Indian High Commission, Victoria University In Key Education Partnership

Ugandan students will now learn more about Indian culture without flying out of the country. This comes after the Indian High Commission in Uganda commissioned the ‘Indian Corner’ at Victoria University library with the aim of uplifting the standards of education in the country.

The Indian Ambassador to Uganda Mr. Ravi Shankar was recently at Victoria University to open the Indian Corner inside the University’s library. In the corner, you can find all sorts of books talking about the history and culture of India.

The Vice-Chancellor Victoria University Assoc Prof. Dr. Krishna N. Sharma said the partnership is ‘one of the steps we are taking for social integration and global citizenship.’ “You can visit our library to understand every detail about the Indian culture, health, education and life,” he said.

The Indian High Commissioner (ambassador) said Uganda and India have good bilateral relations. He noted that many Ugandan students have studied their higher level education in India. He noted that these students have overtime fallen in love with the country.

He added that the ‘Indian Corner’ at Victoria University Library will not only help Indians in Uganda learn more about Indian culture, and education among other things, but also Ugandans who like reading and adventure.

Victoria University Council Moves To Realize Much Needed Growth

Victoria University, as a leading private university, continues to grow and insists on tapping into the existing resources that can help its growth as a learning institution and trainer of young people.

This ambition to have a prospering university is made possible by an innovative management that has been able to lure young and enterprising young minds to join the university as a guarantee that the university is here to empower young people.

The recent development from the university is that seasoned journalist Andrew Mwenda and businessman Dr Chirag Kotecha joined as members of University Council of Victoria University.

The two joined others like Dr. David Byatike Matove, Chairman University Council; Joseph N. Biribonwa, Vice Chairman University Council; James Kelebo, Council Member; Justice Maintum, Council Member; Joram Francis Kahenano, another Council Member.

The University said the Council strives to achieve the educational objectives of the University and those matters that affect the common interests of faculty, staff and students.

It is authorized to initiate policy proposals as well as to express its judgment on those submitted to it by the administrative officers of the University and its various academic divisions.

With the guidance of the Council, Victoria University is building capacity of not only the teaching staff but also that of students graduating from the institution. Initiatives such as Total Graduate Program which was recently conducted are taking the university in the right direction.

The workshop training themed ‘towards a complete graduate training - after university, what next?, was aimed at teaching the University’s student who will be graduating in September the basics of formal employment and doing business.

The training which took place on Monday 15th and 16th Tuesday, July 2019, addressed issues to do with the social life of the students, the business world, religion, personal and community security and work-life balance.

Topics discussed at the workshop included career planning, job searching and retention, writing CV and undertaking job interviews, public speaking, business startup and registration, business etiquette, financial literacy, investment portfolio and social media for business.

The University is also looking at collaborating with institutions like Uganda National Council for Science and Technology to undertake powerful and purposeful research.

Victoria University under the stewardship of Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Dr. Krishna N. Sharma has prioritized research as a cornerstone for their teaching and education delivery. This has been much more evident in the faculty of health sciences and ICT.

The faculty of health sciences published more research papers and journals than any other faculty at high rising Victoria University in Uganda. The Vice Chancellor of Victoria University Dr. Krishna N. Sharma said in the academic year 2018, 35 publications were released from the University.

Also, Victoria University recently offered free financial literacy training to the public. The two day training helped attendees to ‘possess the set of skills and knowledge that allows you to make informed and effective decisions with all of you financial resources.’

Participants got skills on informed and effective decisions on financial resources and also learnt the main steps to achieve financial literacy. The also learnt the skills to create a budget, ability to track spending, book keeping, techniques to pay off debts and effective financial planning.

I Want To Make Victoria University A Good Place For Learning – Guild President

The desire to improve the lives of students at Victoria University inspired Mark Serebe, the new crowned Guild President, to take up a leadership role at the Ruparelia Group owned university.

In this Interview, Serebe narrates his life’s story, ambitions and all that he plans to do for the University.

Tell us about your background, your childhood, time through schools and what you want people to know about you as the reigning Guild President of Victoria University.

I can say that my parents have done a great job in as far as educating me is concerned as I have gone to some of the best institutions in the country like Kings College Budo where I did my O' level and from Buddo Secondary School where I did my A' level.

Two things that I say about myself is that am an easy guy and I can easily get along with anyone and I respect everyone irrespective of where they come from so I believe that I will be the same for the students of Victoria University

What attracted and inspired you to join students’ leadership here at Victoria University and in schools that you have attended?

From my personal experience at Victoria University, there were issues to do with communication between university management and the guild especially when it came to the area of internship and defending of research and dissertation especially for those that are at the final stages of their degree programme.

So I decided to stand to resolve these issues and make university life easy for the ones that plan to join us.

How do you intend to balance being a student and a Guild President of a vibrant and growing university?

I set my priorities straight and I am making sure that my activities for the week are fully planned to ensure that am not caught off guard and that at the end of the day I am able to work both effectively and fulfil my commitments as Guild President.

How do you plan to deploy the skills and knowledge you have acquired from this University to grow the institution and to the public benefit?

With the knowledge that I have acquired while studying my course (Human Resource Management), I plan to use it to create harmony with the team and promote real human relations.

This will enable us to go forward as a university. I will use my knowledge to explain to guild members their roles so that they can be effective in the execution of those roles.

What are some of your plans for the University as Guild President? What do you want your tenure to accomplish by the end of the mandate?

I plan to ensure that the academic affairs of students are greatly improved by making sure students get their results on time and that they receive information from their deans as quickly as possible.

I have greatly emphasized the lack of information flow at the University, therefore, students couldn't take action; so my method to solve this is to often organize meetings to address student issues.

These are some of the few things I plan to accomplish during my tenure along with ensuring the school cafeteria provides food to students that is affordable. Right now it is not yet available.

You mentioned in an earlier interview that you want to bridge the gap between the students and University management – please describe the current state of affairs and the solution you intend to offer.

Currently, students get to know important information about the guild and the university through WhatsApp. This system is not enough as some students are not on WhatsApp and others lose their phones during the semester.

They end up missing out on that information. I plan to combat this by getting student numbers so that alongside WhatsApp, we can send them SMS in case they cannot access the social media platform.

What are some of the pressing challenges that the student leadership and university management need to address?

I must say this right from the start that the university challenges are not too big to be solved but for me, the challenges are communication between the two bodies (University Council) and the guild body to ensure that the students are served and that they acquire the best education in the best way possible.

Do you feel any pressure to perform as a Guild President – from your peers, university management or from yourself?

Yes, I do get that pressure. Sometimes from my peers who expect me to know every single thing about the guild yet sometimes, I also get information late from the university management.

Management must maintain a good public image to ensure that Victoria University is seen as a prestigious university in Uganda.

What do you hate and love about leading your fellow students?

I like leading these students especially when it comes to important university information or calling people to attend conferences outside the university.

The current challenge is when it comes to parties. They don’t turn up as expected which is really disappointing considering the time you take to budget and prepare the venue for the event.

Why did you choose Victoria University Kampala of all universities in Uganda and the world?

At first, I didn’t really see much importance which university I went to but over time, the more I got engaged in student activities and lectures, the more I got to see the true value of understanding the concepts that we were being taught.

In Victoria University, the student numbers are small so lecturers can easily explain better the concepts putting us at the advantage when the time of employment comes into play. So as of now, I don't regret the decision my parents made for me to join Victoria University.

How best can you describe your stay here, at Victoria University, as a student?

I don't exactly have the right words to say because I have had good days when I enjoyed myself like on International Day and very bad days like when under bad circumstances I was almost given a retake yet it wasn't my fault but that of the people that were correcting our exam timetable.

But what I can say is that I hope by the time I pass on the torch of Guild President to the next person, the university will truly be on a different level from other universities.

Would you join Victoria University if you had another opportunity and task to choose which university to join?

I wouldn’t mind joining it again though there is another university that truly interests me; that is the International University of East Africa.

I like it for its diverse cultural identities - with people from DRC, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania all studying in one university.

Did Victoria University meet your expectation once you joined and became a student?

At first, I wasn't satisfied with the university but over time I came to appreciate all that it had to offer. So I can say my current stand is fair with room for improvement.

Would you recommend parents to bring their children to this University?

Yes. I would. I know one of the things that scare them is tuition but the university management has enhanced scholarships that smoothen the burdens that the parents have to bear for their children.

The scholarships enable students to proceed through the semester without any delay or mishaps unlike some of the other universities where students lose between 2 weeks to a month because of strikes from students and teachers.

How This Graduate Program Is Preparing Students For Employment

In an era where jobs for fresh graduates are hard to come by, extra preparation and skills must be accorded to students completing university studies.

These skills should enable students to meet the standards required of them and to exceptionally perform if hired. For this to happen, universities are devising means to supplement what they teach in lecture rooms with tailor-made workforce training.

Well aware of the obstacles that fresh graduates face in the wake of looking for and sustaining jobs, Victoria University conducted a two-day workshop to prepare their 2019 graduate class.

The workshop training themed ‘towards a complete graduate training - after university, what next? Was aimed at teaching the University’s student who will be graduating in September the basics of formal employment and doing business.

The training which took place on Monday 15th and 16th Tuesday, July 2019, addressed issues to do with the social life of the students, the business world, religion, personal and community security and work-life balance.

Topics discussed at the workshop included career planning, job searching and retention, writing CV and undertaking job interviews, public speaking, business startup and registration, business etiquette, financial literacy, investment portfolio and social media for business.

Others were religious like spirituality, vision and discipline, body language, relationship and marriage. Also work etiquette, leadership skill, emotional intelligence, stress management, health and fitness were discussed.

Peggy Mariah Nabunya, one of the students who attended the workshop said it helped her to put a lot into perspective about how long she intended to be in employment and the various things she needed to do to maintain a job.

“It also showed me that I need to answer questions like 'how am adding value to the organization I'm working in?' and 'how is the organization adding value to me'. I also learnt so many basic skills that most times we take for granted that can make or break you.” Nabubya said of the workshop.

Another student, Marlie Keishamaza, a student of Bachelors in Journalism, described the workshop as insightful. “I learnt a lot of things that I wouldn’t otherwise have known in my own,” Keishamaza noted.

“They taught us about balancing work and personal life, being a good leader, spirituality, how to handle yourself in the work environment and what to expect from it. So much. The kind of things that most people only learn by experience,” she added.

Alice Akurut says the training taught her to be a change-maker in a way that adds value to society. She said learning about financial literacy has helped her private business and ‘improved my entrepreneurial and budgeting skills.’

Victoria University is using initiatives such as this training to ensure that their students have a competitive advantage in the job market. The University deploys as such initiative to build capacities of their students.

The workshop was facilitated by human resource experts from NFT Consult and Premier Recruitment. Other facilitators included the Dean Faculty of Humanities, the Academic Registry and other Victoria University personnel.

Benin Making The Most Out Of LNG To Power Projects

By Mickael Vogel

With a population of less than 12 million and a GDP of $10.35bn in 2018, Benin is often overshadowed by its massive neighbour, Nigeria.

Yet as African countries try to revitalize their energy sector, bring in private capital and develop gas-to-power, it is in West Africa and Benin that observers should look for positive developments.

With recent legislative reforms and a strong political will, the small West African nation is strengthening its place as the capital of the West African Power Pool (WAPP) and positioning itself as a big hub for gas and power in the sub-region.

On July 24, French super-major Total signed a Gas Supply Agreement and Host Government Agreement with Benin and its state utility, the Société Béninoise d'Energie Electrique (SBEE). The agreement will see the development of a 0.5 mtpa Floating, Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU), the first in West Africa. LNG supplies sourced from Total's global portfolio are set to start in 2021 and last for 15 years.

This is no small move for a region that has repeatedly tried to develop its gas-to-power infrastructure but has remained faced with financing, infrastructure and regulatory challenges. Between Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, up to 7,750MW of gas-to-power facilities could be installed by 2030 according to Power Africa.

In practice however, erratic supplies from the West Africa Gas Pipeline, lack of gas and transmission & distribution infrastructure, unattractive pricing structures and outdated master plans mean that such potential might remain under-exploited.

In this context, the recent signing of agreements with Total brings hope to a region hungry for power. It is first the result of a strong political will.

Under the leadership of President Patrice Talon, Benin has been implementing a strong Government Action Plan (PAG) since 2016 which places the revitalisation of the country's energy sector and private sector capital as a pillar of economic development.

The formula is working: Benin grew by almost 7% last year and is expected to grow by 6.5% this year (IMF), placing it in the top 15 of the world's fastest-growing economies. And political vision has led better ease of doing business.

Benin has been revising its Electricity Code, and its Council of Ministers approved last month the new framework of intervention for the Independent Power Producers (IPPs), improving investment and operating conditions for private investors in the country's power industry.

As a result, the agreement with Total will not only see the development of West Africa's first FSRU, it is also reviving hopes of seeing clean LNG powering future homes and industries across the region. The new gas import project will indeed supply power plants in Benin, such as the new 127 MW power station at Maria Gléta, with regasification infrastructure developed and operated by Total.

Senegal’s Energised Renaissance

By Sebastian Wagner

After decades of struggles against a deficient power generation system, Senegal is now at the verge of a paradigmatic shift that could put many of its troubles to rest. With the government's bet in recent years in new power generation facilities, power outages have greatly diminished, system reliability has improved and with it the opportunities for economic growth.

To be sure, many still live without access to electricity. On average, 4 in every 10 people are not connected to the national grid. The situation is worst outside the main urban centres, where 60% of the population remains unconnected, but the chance to improve this situation has never been closer.

At a production capacity of a little less than 1 gigawatt for a growing population of 15 million strong, investment in further generation capacity is paramount if Senegal is ever to develop its internal market and give its citizens a shot at a better standard of living. However, sustainability must guide decision-making as much as strategic need.

The imported heavy-fuels and coal used to generate most of the country’s power comes at a heavy cost for the state’s coffers. In 2016, refined and crude oil imports cost the Senegalese state over USD$1.5 billion.

Sustainable Power

The alternatives are obvious. Senegal is blessed with many hours of high solar exposure and wind flows. The opportunities are also there to be seized. French power company ENGIE and investment company Meridiam won a tender in April for a 60MW solar park.

This will build on the country’s previously established renewable generation projects, which now amount to 80MW. As the price of solar and wind technologies decreases, these technologies have become more and more appealing in recent years which also has a positive impact on the cost per MW for the consumer.

Engie’s park will cost around 40% less than the previous endeavours in solar in Senegal. Another 158MW of wind power are planned for development by the Lekela Power company in Taiba N'Diaye.

These developments build on a combination of factors. Senegal’s reputation for stability and positive business environment have made the West African nation particularly luring for foreign investors in recent years.

Investment has come not just from the country’s traditional partners in the West, particularly France, but from the East, with Turkey, China, the UAE, South Korea and India making sizeable investments in the country.

To the growing interest of private investors adds the support from international institutions like the United States-led Power Africa programme, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), or the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a part of the World Bank Group. These organizations have helped finance many power generation-related projects throughout the continent.

In partnership with the Senegalese government, particularly through the Scaling-Solar scheme supported by the IFC, these projects, including the new 60MW solar park project won by ENGIE and its Meridiam, are progressively seeing the light of day and bringing relief to the country’s struggling power grid.

Since 2016, when the first solar power project was launched in Senegal, the country has seen a extremely fast development in renewable energy projects. If all goes according to plan, almost half a gigawatt of installed capacity will be available in 2020. That would be one of the fastest increases in renewable to fossil fuel generation ratio in the world.

Further, these projects bring not only power stability but answer concerns of climate change mitigation. Under the Paris agreements, Senegal committed to reduce its CO2 emissions by 21% by 2020, a goal that only through a sustainable energy policy can be achieved.

These combination of variables give Senegal its best opportunity yet to push for the modernization of its power generation industry, which in turn should potentiate the development of industries, creation of wealth, jobs and economic growth.

At the same time, moving away from expensive heavy oil-based power generation needs to be a priority.

The gas bliss

Kosmos Energy’s discoveries of large quantities of natural gas reserves in the offshore regions of Senegal has come as a game-changer for the country. Over the last couple of years, successive finds have risen the estimated in-place reserves of the country to up to 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, propelling it to the top 5 of Africa’s biggest natural gas holders.

Exploration license holders Kosmos and BP have already suggested a fast-track development using a floating LNG facility that could see first gas being commercialized as early as 2021 from Greater Tortue/Ahmeyin fields.

Additional discoveries in 2017 have made the companies consider two rather than one train of LNG processing capacity. This means that very soon Senegal can have access to an inexpensive source of energy it can use to power its homes and industries, not to mention a new and strong stream of income.

The political will also seem to be present for that to take place. February’s announcement of the agreement reached between Senegal and Mauritania for the exploitation of their shared natural gas reserves in the Greater Tortue Complex, which holds up to 25TCF of natural gas, is a symbol of the times. Quick decision-making among political leaders focused on economic development.

If the cards are played well, we could be witnessing a shifting moment for the country’s economic structure. President Macky Sall, himself an educated oilman, is well aware of what to expect once the natural gas starts to flow.

Already, plans are being made to convert heavy-fuel turbines to operate with natural gas. Just in April, the technology group Wärtsilä won a tender for the deployment of a 130-MW Flexicycle plant that can operate in a combination of different fuels so it can immediately be shifted to natural gas once the resource is made available. The country’s older power plants will soon follow.

By using natural gas as a power source, the national grid will be able to offset the intermittency of renewable power supply while saving millions in fuel costs and reduce CO2 emissions.

Lessons learned

That is not to say that Senegal is not also at risk of making the same mistakes as many of its neighbours. When oil was first discovered by Cairn Energy in Senegal in 2015, there were more than a few voices that expressed concern for what an oil boom could do to Senegal’s fragile economy.

Nigeria’s and other’s battles with the oil curse is nothing to be envious of. Many of these concerns are well-founded. A major income stream suddenly being concentrated in a specific sector of the economy can reduce competitiveness in other sectors and produce inflationary pressures.

Further, expectations need to be managed carefully. The oil and gas sector is not a major employer. Most people will not find a job in it. Particularly with floating LNG solutions, there will be little place for integrating the local workforce, especially with a relatively low technical skillset.

However, if Senegal can learn from the mistakes of others, its natural resources can truly help the country develop economically.

There are quite a few examples to look at. Ghana has quickly established one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks for oil and gas income management the continent, even the world, has ever seen. Equatorial Guinea has managed to use its resources to invest in infrastructural develop and boost associated industries to create a thriving logistics hub in the Gulf of Guinea. European cooperation partners can also provide assistance in developing the necessary institutions to manage this income. Already, Senegalese lawmakers have partnered with the Netherlands and visited the country’s operations in the North Sea to learn from their experience.

To be sure, there will be challenges to governance and some issues will need to be addressed within the specificities of the Senegalese reality. However, if the government can stick to its plan of partnering with international allies to invest in a power generation sector it can create the foundation ground for the growth of a strong economy.

Balancing natural gas and renewables for power generation, maintaining a strict vigilance over the management of oil and gas income, establishing independent regulatory bodies and heritage funds to manage the revenue, can be the building blocks of a new era of economic growth in Senegal.

Kabira Country Club Lines Up Vegan Burgers, Braised Beef For Kampala Restaurant Week

The hunt for the best restaurants in the country is on and revelers can make their choices known by voting during the ongoing Kampala Restaurant Week.

Independent and hotel restaurants are doing their best to make sure they impress their customers with the most appealing and tasty menus.

And to outclass their competitors in the Casual Dining Restaurants category, Kabira Country Club, a member of the Speke Group of Hotels, has assembled classic starters, a beefy main course and fruity desert.

For starters, Kabira Country Club is serving their guests Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce. These are perfectly grilled chicken satay skewers in the most flavorful marinade served with peanut.

The other starters’ option is the Beef Croquette – a small bread crumbed fried food roll containing grounded spiced beef, mashed potatoes and vegetables. Any of the two choices is served a price of Shs15, 000.

The main course is a little bit adventurous but normal. The hotel is serving a Vegan Burger made of which is a seasoned all natural patty onions and mushrooms, served on a homemade bun.

The alternative is Braised Beef with Pumpkin Mash, slowly braised in a rich gravy served with Pumpkin mash. This all comes at an affordable price of Shs25, 000.

Kabira Country Clubs goes for an Apple Pie for dessert. It is filled with crisp, tart Michigan apples and cinnamon and then baked to crispy flaky perfection and drizzled with caramel. The price for this is Shs15, 000.

The Kampala Restaurant Week is running until 10th August. You can vote for Kabira Country Club HERE.

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