Membership of UPDEA still weak

Published: 12-AUG-04

1. How important is the UPDEA in the development of the power sector in Africa?

Before the establishment of UPDEA, there was no organisation with objectives of unifying and promoting the interests of all African power utilities. This should not undermine the amount of work that regional initiatives have invested in forming points of collaboration and association. Organisations like the Nile Basin Initiative of the East African community and its subsidiary action programmes, such as the East Nile and Nile Equatorial Lakes programmes, should be acknowledged and appreciated and not hijacked as UPDEA initiatives.

However, UPDEA has made it possible for utilities to stop acting as if they are in competition with each other and endeavour instead to complement each other by sharing data, information and technical expertise. Members can access, link data and get to know the performance of associate utilities.

The database can also serve as a strong decision making tool for utility management and researchers, while the real-time exchange of technical expertise provides information for investors. It is important for the secretariat to carry out specific programmes to mobilise those that have not yet joined or those that are not active, and bring them on board. Through UPDEA, members are able to appreciate that the problems they face are not unique and other members utilities may have experienced and overcome them. Through the Scientific Committee, members can develop joint research to improve their respective performances in all fields of activities.

2. What significant changes have taken place?

What is interesting to note is that the union started more than three decades ago, and yet members from East Africa (many are still not members) only came aboard a year ago.

It is hoped that most utilities, especially those in West Africa, that have been members from the beginning, have gained a great deal. As one forum for utilities on the continent, UPDEA is a great opportunity for the firm, committed establishments to link the constituent systems into power pools. UPDEA makes a secure umbrella for COMLEC in the north to SAPP in the south, and from WAPP in the west to PEAC in the central and EAPP in the east. The introduction of the databank, is bound to enrich and challenge the decision making of members. The African Development Bank (ADB) is actively involved and supports the development and expansion of member utilities.

3. What encouraging dialogue, if any, is taking place about UPDEAs work?

Maintaining links with UPDEAs affiliates, particularly in South America, has helped members to reap the benefits of shared experiences of utilities that privatised before them, so they come to appreciate the challenges and learn from the mistakes made.As an initial move towards regional integration, the cross-border villages electrification pilot programme, in partnership with the ADB, is a significant sign of an active struggle against poverty.

Plans for activities to link members within the respective power pools (interconnection projects) bring hope of an increased availability of power to a continent whose hopes were challenged by the privatisation demands from the World Bank. The interconnections discussed at the 34th Ordinary General Assembly in Addis-Ababa in April, include:

� Democratic Republic of Congo/Congo Brazzaville-Gabon-Cameroon-Nigeria

� Republic of Congo-Angola-Namibia-Botswana-South Africa

� Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya

� Egypt-Libya-Tunisia-Algeria-Morocco

4. What challenges do they still face?

UPDEA is an effort to transcend national political boundaries and has many challenges to meet. The first arises from the political differences on the continent and the physical fragmentation of members, even within the same power pool. Not all power utilities on the continent are members.

There is a power struggle between financing entities, such as the World Bank and the ADB over the interests each entity has in the power sector. The expansion of UPDEA activities seems to threaten the position of the World Bank as a major financier, and therefore there could be a deliberate move to curb UPDEAs ambitions.

The push for the privatisation of the utilities was effected faster than UPDEA was able to mobilise utilities as members. Many utilities that are not yet active members are those whose status is not clearly defined, and therefore cannot commit themselves as to which way to move. In other cases, legally binding agreements have been signed between governments and concessionaires, so any decisions could have legal implications.

UPDEA members are not yet familiar with networking, and need to learn to consult each other more before they announce projects/activities. However, although communication has greatly improved in Africa, it is still difficult to communicate between member utilities, which slows down the collaboration.

Print this page Send this article to a friend

Subscribe now!
Subscribe to Business in Africa magazine now and receive full access to this website.
Find out more...

Market news on your cellphone
Get live JSE listed shares, warrants, major indices, brent crude oil, international markets, agricultural futures & daily market analysis via SMS on your mobile.
Find out more...

Eskom leaders forum
African business and public sector leaders define and construct a prosperous future for the continent.
Find out more...

Online travel bookings
Planning to travel? Book accommodation in Africa & South Africa here.
Book now...

�Have your say
Chat on the Business in Africa forums with other readers about the issues of the day, affecting Africa.
Post your comment...

Calculate the latest currency rates for Africa and world currencies
Find out more...

Have your magazine delivered via the Web, anywhere in the world, directly to your PC!
Find out more...

Contact us | About us | Newsletter | Subscription centre | Advertising

All material copyright Business in Africa. All rights reserved. Material may not be published or reproduced in any form without prior written permission. Read these terms & conditions. Read our privacy statement and security statement. Powered by Mail & Guardian Online & iafrica.com.