Undoubtedly, there is a direct correlation between economic growth and electricity supply worldwide. For Africa, it has been said time and again by various economists and development experts that the reason for the continent’s underdevelopment is mainly because of its low or poor access to electricity.

The continent’s power is significantly underdeveloped, whether it is energy access, installation capacity or indeed the overall consumption. The fact that Africa’s residential and industrial sectors suffer electricity shortages means that countries struggle to sustain their respective economic growth.

For sure, the stakes are enormous. But fulfilling the economic and social promise of Africa depends on the ability of governments and investors to develop the continents huge electricity capacity.

Zambia’s development expert, Dr Cris Muyunda says if Africa is to fulfill its promise, the continent needs power, and lots of it. Dr Muyunda says infrastructure development is a top developmental priority in Africa, particular in two critical areas: electricity and transport.

According to the World Bank, energy data on access to electricity, Africa’s access to electricity forms the basis of an industrialised economy and hence trade. Yet less than 30 percent of Africans have access to electricity, compared to about 40 percent in similar low-income countries from other regions.

“Unless we can do something to tackle this issue, we have no hope of increasing intra-regional trade in Africa. Powering Africa requires concerted efforts from all governments. Power generation should be taken as a business and if taken so, Africa can develop faster than expected,” Dr Muyunda says.

Answering this call, three countries, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya agreed to undertake a project called the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya (ZTK) power interconnector project.

The ZTK interconnector is a high voltage power transmission line connecting Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. It is a Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)-Southern African Development Community (SADC)- East African Community (EAC) Tripartite Priority project as well as a NEPAD project under the Infrastructure, Development in Africa (PIDA) programme and the Africa Power Vision, which have been endorsed by the African Union Heads of State and Government Assembly.

The project’s main objective is to provide opportunities to conduct power trade in the Eastern and Southern Africa region and facilitate the creation of a Pan African power market from Cape Town in South Africa, to Cairo in Egypt and Tripoli in Libya.

The project also aims to connect the three countries’ electricity grids and create a link between the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and the East African Power Pool (EAPP), making it possible to transmit power from Cape to Cairo.

According to a report issued by ministers of infrastructure responsible for transport, energy and information communication technology in the COMESA region recently, progress has been made on the project in different sections of the three countries.

The current status of the project (as of September 2017) indicates that from Isinya (Kenya) to Singida (Tanzania) financing has been secured and construction is ongoing while on the Singida – Iringa in Tanzania, construction is ongoing and almost complete.

In Iringa – Mbeya, the feasibility study is done and conclusion of financing awaiting the completion of the Mbeya-Kabwe feasibility study which is expected to be completed by end of October 2017.

Electricity is key to economic growth. With electricity, businesses operate at higher levels of productivity, farmers can run cleaner irrigation systems and processing machines that improve their yields and thus, their income.

With eighty percent of Africa’s economy relying on agriculture, imagine the total impact on farmers’ lives if they all had access to electricity, how it would impact their yields and translate into greater economic growth.

By Doreen Chilumbu

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