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Experts say energy costs hurting recovery

By Biketi Kikechi | October 19th 2021

Kenya Power lines in Kajiado. February 2021. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

Stakeholders from Africa and China met in Nairobi last week to discuss how to manage the challenges emerging from the energy sector in Kenya and Africa.

The conference which brought together private sector, academia and government think tanks discussed how Kenya and other countries can build sustainable energy to spur manufacturing in the post-Covid-19 era.

Among the issues addressed were the high cost of power, its quality and reliability, issues they identified as challenges Kenya and others should address to spur economic growth.

Speakers from South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya joined their colleagues from China in proposing measures and policy changes that will help achieve energy self-sufficiency.

Garth Le Pere from the University of Pretoria, however, cautioned that as Africa moves to have access to energy that is reliable, sustainable and affordable, environmental protection should be seriously addressed.

“Energy has become a major source of conflict with systemic challenges in some African countries and community engagement should therefore be key as we share our experiences with China to avoid pitfalls as we develop the sector,” said Prof Le Pere.

The meeting convened by the China National Petroleum Corporation Economic and Technical Research Institute (CNPC-ETRI) and Africa Policy Institute-Kenya agreed that promoting green energy is a fundamental challenge for all African countries.

President and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute Peter Kagwanja told the participants that one of the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is that promoting local manufacturing is key to combating disease.

He called for more cooperation between China and African countries in research to enable them to manufacture vaccines, medicines and different types of drugs.

However, he said it will only happen if both parties agree on how African countries can be assisted through capacity building and training as they are provided with a road map to promote the production of green energy to support industrialization.

“We should adopt the China–Africa Green Energy Framework to combat the effects of climate change and enhance renewable energy for industrialisation as part of the post-Covid-19 recovery strategy,” said Prof Kagwanja. He also proposed urgent need of adopting more energy hubs to support large and small scale renewable energy projects not only in Kenya but across Sub-Saharan Africa.

President and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute Peter Kagwanja. [David Njaaga, Standard]

“They should develop more special economic zones to boost industry and manufacturing for both the domestic and export market in the post Ciovid-19 era,” added Kagwanja.

Nairobi-based oil and gas consultant Malcolm Marega urged stakeholders and strategic partners like China to invest more in solar energy which can be localized in rural areas that are not connected on the national grid.

He gave the example of the 55 mW Garissa Solar Power Plant that is now operational and has now increased the share of renewable energy on the grid to 93 per cent.

The project developed by the Kenya Rural Electrification Authority was constructed by China Jiangxi Corporation  in an area covering 85 hactares.

“Such projects can be replicated in other parts of the country not reached by the national grid and indeed in other African countries,” said Marega.

Further, Principal Secretary State Department of Industrialisation Kirimi Kaberia told the meeting that Kenya will prioritise economic and special processing zones to help attain the 10 per cent GDP growth by the year 2030.

“Kenya has established them to create more jobs and attract investment because by 2019, manufacturing was already contributing 7.7 per cent to the GDP,” said Kaberia.

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