Windhoek – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has made tremendous progress in power generation, adding 19,738MW to the regional grid over the past seven years, the outgoing Executive Secretary of the bloc, Dr Stergomena Tax, has said.
Addressing Heads of State and Government in Malawi at their annual summit this week, Dr Tax used part of her farewell speech to update regional leaders of achievements made during her tenure, one of which was progress in electricity generation.
She said countries in the region had commissioned new power generation capacity meeting 90 percent of its 22,000MW target for the period under review.
She said access to electricity had increased from 36 percent in 2014/2015 to more than 50 percent in 2020/2021.
“The target is to reach at least 85 percent (electricity access) by 2030 in line with the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030. The share of renewable energy also increased from 22% in 2015/2016 to 32% in 2019/2020,” Dr Tax said.
She said energy traded through bilateral agreements had increased from 4,761 gigawatt-hours (GWh) in 2014/15 to 7,992GWh in 2018/2019, though the figure dropped slightly to 5,642 GWh in 2020/2021.
Dr Tax said the share of the monthly volumes traded through the Southern African Power Pool market also increased from 10 percent in 2014/2015 to its highest ever level of 33 percent in 2019/2020.
“Sadly, the traded volumes have been affected by decreasing demand since March 2020, as a result of COVID-19,” she added.
The outgoing SADC boss also said progress had been registered in mobile penetration rates.
“All SADC member states have established at least two cross-border terrestrial optical fibre links for regional and international transit traffic, and the SADC mobile penetration has increased from 60 percent in 2012, and currently stands at 77.4 percent, with five member states exceeding 100 percent mobile penetration. The SADC Internet user penetration has also increased from four percent in 2012 to 22.9 percent in 2020,” she said. “The SADC region accounts for 57 percent share of the 46 Internet exchange points in Africa. These milestones are also contributing to our digitisation efforts.”
Dr Tax noted that progress had been recorded in financial integration and inclusion.
While challenges remained in this arena, she said the SADC Real Time Gross Settlement System (SADC-RTGS) had lowered transaction costs by removing the need for correspondent banks.
“As of June 2021, a total of 83 participating Banks, from 15 SADC member states (except Comoros), were electronically linked, to effect cross-border payments and settlements in real time. From July 2013 to June 2021, total number of transactions settled reached US$591.38 billion.”
However, intra-SADC trade has remained low, accounting for 21.6 percent in 2016, slowing to 20 percent in 2017, and 19.3 percent in 2018.
“To address this, a number of measures are in place, notably through the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap 2015-2063, and the SADC Regional Mining Vision (RMV) and Action Plan 2019, which were approved in 2015 and 2019 respectively, and a number of frameworks have been put in place, and value chains developed. Nonetheless, implementation needs to be accelerated,” Dr Tax said.
She said the structure of SADC economies remained undiversified with huge dependence on natural resources-based sectors, in particular agriculture and mining, which account for over 25 percent of the region’s GDP. The manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP is about 13 percent.