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Former UN Secretary General and Nobel Laureate, Dr. Kofi Annan has called on African power administrators to rethink generalizing power generation and supply, saying the challenges of long distance distribution has proved cumbersome and ineffective.
In an interview during the launch of Africa Progress Panel report in Abidjan, he said “We cannot simply rely on the grids. Particularly given the way our societies are structured”.
“Villages are dispersed. It is not an easy proposition to say they should wait till the grid gets to them. They will wait forever. So we need to get into off grid systems and standalone systems using renewables or many dams that offer electricity to offer electricity to our citizens.
“It will be faster. It is flexible and you can also link it back if enough electricity is produced. If a grid system produces more electricity than it needs, it can be sold back to the national grid, but they have to have rules which allow that.
According to him, captive model which provides power in a regional or community basis will serve better because every demarcated area will be served with the best power generation system that has the comparative advantage for the area.
For example, areas where there is good water system can go on with dam while areas of extreme dryness can be fixed with solar system and others can use power plants.
He recalled that “We started with people using solar energy to light two bulbs, now the systems have developed and they are developing very fast”.
“When you look at communication, how we’ve used cellphone systems to leapfrog the communication system, today hardly anyone relies on landlines, everybody gives you their cell number. I hope we can do a similar leapfrogging in the electricity generation system and access to electricity. But here the citizens have an important role to play because the governments not only have to create the right environment to encourage and incentivise people who want to go into this sector, governments alone can’t do it.
“The private sector has money, management, innovation and research that can be helpful in this area and all that we need to do is to have the right regulatory environment and create a stable social and economic environment that would convince the investor that the situation under which they’re investing will prevail for the next 5 or 10 years for them to get their money back.
“The private sector has a role to play but the individual and civil society also has roles to play, because governments are supposed to work in the interests of the people and for the welfare of the people. Sometimes we the people, we as individuals need to put the pressure on them to do what is right. Issues that concern us have to be pushed up the political agenda so that they cannot be ignored. I often say that when the leaders fail to lead, the people will lead and make them follow. It’s extremely important, and a good leader is also a good follower.
“The report also states the obvious in terms of what the policy and regulatory environment in Africa needs to be. It states that it needs to improve considerably
He said several African countries have shown leadership in this area. Countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Morocco. Even here in Ivory Coast where they are encouraging the use of renewables and I have a friend who uses solar energy to power his entire house. But he generated more than he needed and wanted to sell the excess to the government to put it back on the national grid only to discover that there were no rules for that.
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