AfDB and COMESA Launch a $1.5M Project to Improve Regional Electricity Regulation

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) announced a new regional initiative to improve the sustainability of the East and Southern African electricity sector through integrated regulatory structures.

The project, dubbed “Regional Harmonization of Regulatory Frameworks and Tools for Improved Electricity Regulation in COMESA,” seeks to create effective, transparent, uniform, and enforceable regulatory frameworks throughout the region. The ultimate goal is to increase cross-border electricity trade and improve energy access throughout the COMESA region. COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe and AfDB Country Manager Mr. Raubil Durowoju jointly launched the initiative today at the COMESA Secretariat in Lusaka, Zambia.

The project comprises three key components, including:

  • Elaboration and Adoption of Regional Electricity Regulatory Principles, and Regulatory and Utility Key Performance Indicators based on the AfDB’s flagship Electricity Regulatory Index for Africa for the COMESA region.
  • Harmonized Comparison of Electricity Tariffs and Cost Reflectivity Assessment Framework Tool.
  • Development of an Information and Database Management System.

COMESA will be the project’s executing agency, and the Regional Association of Energy Regulators for Eastern and Southern Africa (RAERESA) of COMESA will be the project’s implementing agency, with assistance from the Energy Regulators Association of East Africa (EREA). The AfDB has provided a USD1.5 million grant for the project through the African Development Fund, the Bank’s concessional window.

Ms. Kapwepwe expressed gratitude to the AfDB for funding the project, noting that it will aid in establishing clear principles, rules, processes, and standards to improve the monitoring of the development of the electricity sector.

“Under-developed regulatory frameworks and the absence of a framework for monitoring progress complicates implementation modalities and inhibits investment decisions on electricity infrastructure projects,” she said.

The present COMESA region’s electricity access rate is 60%, implying that nearly half of the population lacks access to electricity. The region’s economic growth has been hampered by underdeveloped and underfunded energy infrastructure, resulting in low levels of electrification and unreliable energy supply.

She reiterated the importance of addressing these issues as soon as possible to realize the region’s full economic potential.

“It is virtually impossible to achieve sustainable development without adequate investment in electricity infrastructure,” she said. “The lack of access to reliable electricity supply not only hinders economic growth but also limits opportunities for individuals and communities to improve their livelihoods.”

She pointed out that, ironically, the COMESA region had been gifted with vast untapped natural resources needed for power sector growth. These include vast solar and wind resources in almost every Member State, significant geothermal energy resources in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya, and abundant hydropower resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, and Zambia, among others. These resources could be used to meet the region’s energy needs.

Mr. Durowoju praised COMESA member countries for their dedication to regional integration initiatives and the advancement of energy infrastructure in the region.

He stated that achieving a fully integrated, competitive, and harmonized electricity market in Africa, as envisaged by the African Single Electricity Market (AfSEM) initiative, will necessitate a consistent and coordinated approach to addressing critical regional energy infrastructure deficits, particularly regional interconnections, supported by relevant institutional, policy, and regulatory reforms at the regional level.

“While the AfDB continues to finance key regional power inter-connectors across the continent to boost regional electricity trade, the Bank is equally committed to complementing that effort with soft infrastructure initiatives on harmonization of policy and regulatory frameworks” 

In addition to this COMESA project, Mr. Durowoju emphasized that the Bank is funding similar regulatory harmonization initiatives in SADC, ECOWAS, and ECCAS. These efforts contribute to the achievement of the Africa Single Electricity Market goals.

Representatives from the AfDB, the European Union Delegation to Zambia and COMESA, the Energy Regulators Association of East Africa, and the Regional Association of Energy Regulators of Eastern and Southern Africa (RAERESA) attended the meeting.

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