Power supply must be sustainable, reliable and affordable
A five-member delegation from Namibia, headed by the Minister of Finance, Hon Calle Schlettwein, is attending the 51st annual meeting of the African Development Bank in Lusaka, Zambia. The group’s series of meetings occupies the whole week, from Monday to Friday.
Hon. Schlettwein is accompanied by Ms. Ericah B. Shafudah, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and three other senior government officials. The delegation returns home this Saturday.
In addition to the numerous formal and informal meetings, the minister held bilateral meetings with representatives of various African governments and non-governmental institutions on the margins of the main African Development Bank annual meeting. The minister also used the opportunity to meet delegates from a number of private sector organisations.
In a special meeting convened on Wednesday, Hon Schlettwein participated in the dialogue on climate change and energy, conveying his core message that electricity supply must be sustainable, reliable and affordable.
Pointing out the conundrum of many African governments, the minister said it is important that large utilities are financed from own resources to avoid the burden of conditionalities which ultimately, increases the development cost.
“For Africa to improve her ability to mobilize own financial resources better utilization of the natural resource endowment is pivotal. We must get better returns from natural resource such as minerals and metals, oil and gas, but also fisheries, agriculture and other renewable resources like wildlife, timber and the like. Access contracts must be renegotiated to bring about better reward,” the minister told the meeting, underscoring the pivotal point of controlling African resources for Africa’s benefit.
Considering financing options, the minister alluded to illicit financial outflows saying, “Another source for own resources is to curb illicit financial outflows. Sixty percent of these illicit outflows originate from tax avoidance and evasion. The total amount of illicit outflows is much higher than the total donor assistance to the African continent,” he emphasised. This same contentious topic was the point of discussion a fortnight ago where a delegation led by former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, addressed a meeting of the World Bank in New York.
Regarding competitiveness, Hon Schlettwein said, “To become competitive, industrialised economies’ input cost like power and other utilities must remain competitive,” adding that the energy supply for households must be affordable and accessible.
“Currently tariffs are around 30% higher in Namibia if compared to the southern African region, making Namibia uncompetitive,” he said but pointed out that public private partnerships offered enhanced efficiencies in operational, managerial and trading aspect, and it leverages private sector capital.
Stating his views on the future of energy, the minister said state monopolies may no longer be the ideal structure. “Deeper integration of power pools should be advanced to bring about greater grid stability and pricing.”