By Melvin Tejan Mansaray & Omonu Nelson
Energy shortages has continued to constitute huge source of concern to the West African subregion.
It has one of the lowest electrification rates, with 220 million people living without access, coupled with some of the highest electricity costs in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Statistically, only about 42% of the total population, and 8% of rural residents, have access to electricity.
This sorry state of energy in the subregion portends grave consequences because electricity is an important step toward enhancing people’s opportunities and choices. Access is key to boosting economic activity and contributes to improving human capital, which, in turn, is an investment in a country’s potential.
Over the last few decades, the subregion has steadily turned focuse to Renewable Energy, to augment for the terrible energy shortfalls.
Itis against this backdrop and other concerns that the parliamentary arm of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is convening a delocalized meeting on energy issues and women’s empowerment sensitization campaign in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city.
Theannouncement was made in a Media Advisory released by the Communication Division of the Parliament on Thursday 16th March 2023.
Thedelocalized meeting will focus on the theme, “Building the regional energy market for a perfect energy transition,” and will run from the 20th to the 25th of March 2023.
Themeeting is to feature eight (Energy and Mining/ Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources/Infrastructure/Industry and Private Sector/ Public Accounts/Macroeconomic Policy and Economic/Administration, Finance and Budget/ and Health) of the Parliament’s fourteen Standing Committees of the Parliament.
A World Bank publication on ‘sustainable energy for all’ entitled, ‘Regional electricity trade, the key to unleashing West Africa’s power,’ written by Charles Cormier and published in July 2020, noted that, “Home to a rapidly growing population and persistently high
rates of poverty, West Africa suffers from an energy conundrum that if
solved, has the potential to unleash economic development, drive down
poverty, and improve the quality of life of millions of people.”
The article also highlighted that the region is caught in a vicious
energy cycle plagued by unreliable, extremely expensive power
supplies, low rates of electricity access, and an inability to recover
the exorbitantly high cost of producing electricity.
“Only 50% of the population has access to electricity – an unreliable
supply at best. Power supplies suffer from an average of 44 hours of
outages per month and are among the most expensive in the world with
prices averaging about $0.20 per kilowatt-hour.
West Africans pay about twice as much for electricity as their
neighbors on the eastern side of the continent, and for those living
in the region’s fragile states, prices can be as high as $0.40 per
kilowatt-hour,” according to the publication.
The author noted that West Africans are being left behind in the race
to compete in the global economy, with countries unable to deliver the
essential services their population needs to lead healthy and
productive lives but with a positive outlook that, “however, this is
set to change.”
“By interconnecting neighboring power systems and pooling energy
resources, trade within the West African Power Pool could reduce
energy costs while increasing power system resilience and reliability
in the region,” Charles Cormier, Infrastructure Regional Director for
Europe and Central Asia said.
It is in light of the above context and many other emerging and trendy
issues that ECOWAS Parliamentarians and experts are converging to zero
in on the problems and proffer solutions in the interest of the people
of West Africa.
Separately, the Association of ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians dubbed,
ECOFEPA is also set to hold a sensitization campaign tomorrow (Friday
17th Marc, 2023) and the following day in Freetown to deliberate on
women’s empowerment issues in the sub-region.
In retrospect, The ECOWAS Parliament, also known as the Community Parliament, is one of the Institutions of ECOWAS. It is the Assembly of Peoples of the Community serving as a forum for dialogue, consultation and consensus for Representatives of the people of West Africa with the aim of promoting integration.
The Parliament is composed of one hundred and fifteen (115) seats. Each Member State shall have a guaranteed minimum of five (5) seats. The remaining forty (40) seats shall be shared on the basis of population.