ECOWAS Parliament speaker laments low access to electricity in region
The Speaker, Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Parliament, Dr Sidie Mohamed Tunis has lamented over the abysmal access to reliable, sustainable and affordable energy in the region.
The Speaker disclosed this at a five-day joint Parliamentary Committee in Freetown, Sierra Leone with the theme “Building the regional energy market for a just energy transition.”
Dr Tunis said despite no single state can provide sustainable solutions to the challenges, there was need for a joint effort by member nations.
“It is with this in mind that the Member States have set up the West African Power Pool to create a system of interconnection of electricity networks aimed at enabling a better distribution of energy resources, to compensate for the production deficit of member states.
“It is true that the construction of major roads and rail arteries between our capitals will allow for a more intense movement of people and goods.
“However, we must also agree that the physical interconnection infrastructure of the electricity networks that are being developed within the framework of the regional electricity market is, without a doubt, the veins that will enable the transporting and sharing of life-giving energy for the concrete integration of the sub-region.”
Dr Tunis explained that almost half of the population of the over 400 million people in the ECOWAS member states can’t afford or have access to electricity due to low generation and poor distribution capacity.
“With a total population of over 400 million people, only 220 million (54%) have access to electricity, while the remaining 180 million (46%) lack access to power due to low generation or poor distribution capacity.
“This unfortunate reality has impacted negatively on the performance and competitiveness of our businesses, particularly our 7 manufacturing plants that rely heavily on the sustainable power supply to survive,” he said.
The Speaker explained that for the energy issue to improve; an energy transition should top the priority of the region’s economies and national productivity.
Meanwhile, the Sierra-Leone Vice President, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, said energy supply deficit is responsible for the underdevelopment of the region which according to him is unquestionably the backbone of any country’s development.
“No country or region would develop or prosper without energy, as energy is vital to the productive sector, which holds the key to economic development.
“In Sierra Leone, when we took over in 2018, the energy sector was plagued with a lot of challenges. First, energy access was 16 per cent, because there was inadequate generation, high cost of electricity, and lack of transmission and distribution lines”.
Vice President, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, disclosed that when they took over in 2018, the government developed a strategic plan to turn around this story by increasing energy generation access to over 35 per cent