ECOWAS Laments Poor Electricity Supply, High Tariffs Across West Africa

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The Economic Community of West African States has lamented the poor generation of electricity, high tariffs and weak access to energy across the region.

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastructure, Energy, Mines, Water Resources, Digitalisation, and Postal Services, Sediko Douka, disclosed this at a weekly press briefing in Abuja on Thursday.

Douka said that infrastructure was the backbone of any development.

He, however, lamented, “The energy sector, which is one of ECOWAS main areas of action, has an installed production capacity of 25,421 GW, distributed as follows: 77 per cent thermal, 22 per cent hydro, one per cent solar/wind. The rate of access to electricity has increased from 45 per cent in 2019 to an average of 53 per cent in 2023.

Despite this increase, there are significant disparities as the electricity access rate in rural areas is standing at only 10 per cent

“The electric sector also faces a low level of intra-regional electricity exchanges (nine per cent). Furthermore, electricity prices in the West African region remain very high (0.24 USD = 150 FCFA/kWh), negatively impacting economic development, especially industrial development. In short, the main challenges include:

“Deficiency in electricity production and transmission despite extensive energy potential in the region (for example Hydo =26 GW but only 20% is exploited).

High tariffs and poor energy access; unbalanced energy mix: 2/3 thermal to 1/3 hydro, resulting in a low proportion of solar and wind energies.”

To address the challenges, the commissioner said, “ECOWAS set up specialised agencies in the field of energy, namely, the West African Power Pool in Cotonou, Benin, the Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority in Accra, Ghana, the Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Praia, Cape Verde, and the West African Gas Pipeline Authority in Abuja, Nigeria.

“Implementation of the West African Power Pool Master Plan for regional power generation and transmission facilities for 2019-2033: 75 regional projects worth USD 36 billion to build 23,000 km of power interconnection lines and generate 16,000 MW.

“The strategic objective of the WAPP is to integrate the operation of the Community’s national electricity grids into a unified regional electricity market, with a view to providing the citizens of ECOWAS Member States with a stable, regular, and reliable supply of electricity at a competitive cost in the medium and long term.”

The 15-nation bloc ECOWAS, formed in 1975 to promote economic integration in member states, has struggled in recent years to reverse a wave of military takeovers in the region, including Mali in 2020 and 2021, Burkina Faso in 2022 and Niger last year.

The exit of three countries from ECOWAS threatened the African Continental Free Trade Area aimed at accelerating intra-African trade and boosting the continent’s trading position in the global market.

Earlier, ECOWAS imposed economic sanctions on the countries.

The sanctions were, however, lifted a few weeks ago following the intervention of Nigeria’s ex-military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon.

The President, ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, said the decisions were taken in the interest of unity and security in the African sub-region.

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