En­ergy in­te­gra­tion key to East Africa

China Daily European Weekly - - COVER STORY -

To boost trans­for­ma­tion of re­gion over the next decade, gas pipe­line and elec­tri­cal grid link are among projects

devel­op­ment projects.”

The World Bank is fund­ing the East African Power Pool to link the elec­tri­cal grids of the re­gion. A larger grid is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for green en­ergy sources such as so­lar or wind power and also al­lows trade in hy­dropower through­out the re­gion.

Ethiopia gen­er­ates ex­cess elec­tric­ity, so in 2015 the coun­try con­tracted with China Elec­tric Power Equip­ment and Tech­nol­ogy, along with Ger­many’s Siemens, to build high-volt­age trans­mis­sion lines to Kenya. Sim­i­lar power lines to Dji­bouti and Su­dan are al­ready com­plete.

Wondimu Tekle Sigo, former state min­is­ter at the Ethiopian Min­istry of Wa­ter, Ir­ri­ga­tion and Elec­tric­ity, and now a grad­u­ate student at Pek­ing Univer­sity, says that Ethiopia is the “wa­ter tower” of East Africa — able to ex­port hy­dropower through­out the re­gion.

“We are pro­mot­ing a green econ­omy,” he says. “We are in­te­grat­ing the re­gion in terms of green devel­op­ment.” He notes that the coun­try was able to use in­ter­nal sav­ings to fund the $4.5 bil­lion (3.8 bil­lion eu­ros; £3.4 bil­lion) Re­nais­sance Dam on the Blue Nile River.

Tan­za­nia re­cently dis­cov­ered huge nat­u­ral gas de­posits. How­ever, cur­rent world en­ergy prices are low, so the dif­fi­cult process of ex­port­ing nat­u­ral gas by liq­ue­fy­ing it at very cold tem­per­a­tures may not be eco­nom­i­cal. Fur­ther­more, the “nat­u­ral re­source curse” shows that some na­tions that rely on petroleum ex­ports are vul­ner­a­ble to cor­rup­tion and few have suc­ceeded in in­dus­tri­al­iz­ing.

So Tan­za­nia plans to use its nat­u­ral gas to power do­mes­tic in­dus­try. Also, in 2016, the devel­op­ment of a pipe­line to Uganda that will al­low ef­fi­cient dis­tri­bu­tion through­out the re­gion was an­nounced. Cheaper elec­tri­cal power and nat­u­ral gas can help the re­gion to de­velop man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. Ac­cord­ing to a study by re­searchers at the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics, cheap nat­u­ral gas from frack­ing has boosted US man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­ports by around 10 per­cent.

Yao Yang, dean of the In­sti­tute for South-South Co­op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment at Pek­ing Univer­sity, says: “Some of the East African coun­tries have the real po­ten­tial to be ex­traor­di­nary — Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tan­za­nia. One of the lessons they have learned from the 1990s is that they have had enough fight­ing. This time, Kenya just had an elec­tion, and the Supreme Court (an­nulled) the elec­tion, and both sides said, OK, let’s do it again. They know they have to co­ex­ist peace­fully. They have to fo­cus on eco­nomic growth.

“Some coun­tries have more dis­ci­pline, like Uganda,” says Yao. “Ethiopia is an an­cient coun­try that has been there for 2,000 years. I think the re­gion has the po­ten­tial to do re­ally well in the next 10 to 20 years.”

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