COMESA through its energy arm, the Regional Association of Energy Regulators for Eastern and Southern Africa (RAERESA) has hosted a 2-day dialogue workshop in Lusaka on 19 and 20 January 2017 which brought together high level officials from African national regulatory authorities on energy.

The workshop with the theme “Strategic, Sustainable, Integrated and Coordinated Regional Energy Governance” was aimed at concluding on the findings of previous consultations held earlier in 2016, during which RAERESA’s plans and programme were elaborated and validated. The Lusaka meeting defined the specific strategic goals and objectives, as well as implementation initiatives and desired outputs for the period ahead.

COMESA’s RAERESA is meant to help member countries achieve infrastructure development in the energy sector. The association also believes that harmonisation of energy markets is key to attracting public and private investments in the region.

The initiative is expected to accelerate the harmonisation of energy markets in COMESA by enhancing RAERESA’s role and this structure will now become more effective, self-financing, and cover all energy sectors, regulation, market operation, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency at the regional COMESA level.

Topics discussed during the two day meeting included the current gaps and barriers for each of the strategic goals, and details of the short, medium and long-term Plans and Programme. Other topics are the mode of implementation, cost analysis of implementation, the governance structure and coordination for implementation of the Plans and the Programme.

Permanent Secretary in Zambia’s Ministry of Energy Brigadier General Emeldah Chola (Rtd) pointed out that the development of regional energy infrastructure is critical in enabling the production and conveyance of commodities through the various means of transport and communications.

She added that high energy costs continue to be a major impediment to the expansion of manufacturing and other productive sectors.

However, significant improvements can now be seen in the generation capacity as major power generation projects are expected in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. She urged those countries that have not yet joined RAERESA to expeditiously do so.

Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said it is essential for governments and energy sector players, multilateral and bilateral institutions to explore modalities and innovative means of financing the energy infrastructure deficit in the region.

This is because the current infrastructure deficit in the sector has reduced the COMESA annual average growth rate of 5 to 6% by about 2%. He was represented at the workshop by Officer in Charge of the Secretariat Mrs Victoria Mwewa.

“In addition, the high cost of energy in most COMESA Member States is an impediment to regional economic growth and competitiveness in national, regional and international trade,” Mr Ngwenya added.

It is estimated that the average electricity cost in the region is around US$0.10 to 0.15 per kilowatt hour.

The Secretary General said the energy poverty in the region should be seen as an investment opportunity for power generation on a regional basis and an opportunity to build regional power interconnections in order to facilitate trade in power from surplus to deficit regions.

The support to COMESA/RAERESA is funded by the European Union (EU). The EU where represented at the meeting by Ms. Karine Genty, Deputy Head of Unit for Sustainable Energy and Climate Change. She revealed that the support from the EU will to RAERESA in the next 4 years will contribute to the association achieving its strategic objectives.

This support will therefore complement effectively the support the EU is providing for key public and private investments in the energy sector, for which the EU earmarked 2.7 billion euros for sub-Saharan Africa (at national and regional levels) for the period 2014-2020.