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The East African : Jun 7th 2015
The EastAfrican 40 LACK OF ACCESS Africa’s poorest pay the highest prices for energy Repo≥t by Af≥ican P≥og≥ess Panel shows that 621 million people in subSaha≥an Af≥ica lack access to elect≥icity By JAMES ANYANZWA The EastAfrican A frica’s poorest people are paying among the world’s highest prices for energy, according to a new report by the Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Panel. The report, dubbed Seizing Af- rica’s Energy and Climate Opportunities 2015, shows that millions of energy-poor, disconnected Africans, who earn less than $2.5 a day, constitute a $10-billion a year energy market. In sub-Saharan Africa, 621 mil- lion people lack access to electricity — and this number is rising. This size of the market points to significant opportunities for investment and household savings. According to the report, Africa’s highly centralised energy systems only benefit the rich and bypass the poor. Released in Cape Town last week, the report notes that bottlenecks in the energy sector and power shortages are costing the region two to four per cent of GDP annually, undermining sustainable economic growth, jobs and investment. It calls for heavy investments by governments in the energy sector. “One of the greatest barriers to the transformation of the power sector is the low level of tax collection and the failure of governments to build credible tax systems,” the report stated. Domestic taxes can cover almost half the financing gap in sub-Saharan Africa, and redirecting $21 billion spent on subsidies to wasteful utilities and kerosene to productive energy investment, social protection and targeted connectivity for the poor would show that governments are ready to do things differently. “I urge African leaders to take that step,” said Mr Annan. Additional revenues can be mo- bilised by stemming the haemorrhage of finance lost through illicit financial transfers, narrowing opportunities for tax evasion and borrowing cautiously on bond markets. The report notes that energy systems in Africa are chronically under-financed, as about threequarters of government spending is allocated to operations and maintenance, leaving little scope for investment in an expanded, more efficient and equitable energy system. Two-thirds of the energy infra- structure that should be in place by 2030 has yet to be built, while demand for energy in Africa is set to surge, fuelled by economic growth, demographic change and urbanisation. The energy gap between Africa and the rest of the world is widening. Excluding South Africa, which generates half the region’s electricity, sub-Saharan Africa uses less electricity than Spain. It would take the average Tanzanian eight years to use as much electricity as an average American consumes in HIGH RELIANCE ON BIOMASS An engineer monitors activities at a geothermal well. Two-thirds of Africa’s Access to clean, non-polluting cooking energy is restricted. Almost four in five people rely on solid biomass, mainly fuel wood and charcoal. As a result, 600,000 people in the region die each year of household air pollution. Almost half of these are children under the age of five. In Burkina Faso, a month. In Nigeria, an oil-exporting superpower, 93 million people lack electricity. A woman living in a village in northern Nigeria spends around 60 to 80 times per unit more for her energy than a resident of New York City or London. Fifteen years ago, per capita en- ergy use in sub-Saharan Africa was 30 per cent of the level in South Asia, now it is just 24 per cent and still falling. Cameroon, Malawi and Niger, over 80 per cent of primary schools lack access to electricity. About 595 million Africans live in countries where electricity availability per person is sufficient to only light a single 100-watt light bulb continuously for less than two months. Excluding South Africa, con- sumption averages around 162kWh per capita per year. This compares to a global average of 7,000 kWh. The international community has set the goal of achieving universal access to modern energy by 2030 while sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to achieve that target. According to the report it will take Africa until 2080 to achieve universal access to electricity. High-speed Inte≥net costs in Kenya set to d≥op By SCOLA KAMAU Special Correspondent KENYANS WILL soon access high speed Internet at a lower cost as service providers take up part of the National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI) to deliver the last mile to consumers. By the end of June, the government will start laying fibre optic cables in the second and last phase of the NOFBI initiative. According to the Information, Communications and Technology Authority, which is overseeing the project, civil works for the $72-million second phase are complete and the laying of cables will cover the entire country by December. Thirteen counties, among them Kisumu, Embu, Machakos and Bomet, will be covered. “Internet prices should come down drasti- cally — probably by 20 per cent — because infrastructure takes the biggest share of cost of production. The government’s aim is to help the ISPs, and they should in turn lower the prices to their customers,” said Victor Kyalo, the chief executive officer of the ICT Authority. Once complete, the Internet is expected to of- fer speeds of 400 gigabits per second, from 10 gigabits. Access Kenya Group, one of the biggest data network carriers in the country, said it hopes to utilise fibre from NOFBI and other ISPs to widen its presence. “Access Kenya will now use the additional fibre to reroute traffic in case of an emergency, while providing additional resiliency to traffic failures,” said Raymond Macharia, the chief “The government’s aim is to help the ISPs.” Victor Kyalo, ICT Authority CEO technical officer of Access Kenya. Cross border connection costs are expected to come down with the ISPs having the option to utilise the connections in other countries. Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda are expanding the One Network Area initiative to include data and mobile money services. In August, Tanzania will commence the construction of the third phase of the National Information and Communication Technology Broadband Backbone to connect all its districts. In Uganda, data transmission backbone infrastructure is set to enter its third phase this year. In 2013, PTA Bank approved a $11.5 million loan to build a national fibre optic network in Burundi, covering Bujumbura, 17 provinces. Between 2009 and 2011, Rwanda spent $95 million constructing a 2,300-km fibre optic telecommunications network across the country to link it to undersea cables running along the East African seaboard. energy infrastructure that should be ready by 2030 has not been built. Pic: File BUSINESS JUNE 6-12,2015 Change law to help fight illegal t≥ade By GITONGA MARETE The EastAfrican THE KENYA Revenue Authority has proposed amendments to some laws to help it fight smuggling through the port of Mombasa. The authority cited failure to police Kenya’s borders, which have become increasingly porous, as enabling the entry of illegal goods, including wildlife trophies. The Parliamentary commit- tee of Environment and Natural Resources visited the port on Thursday to establish why it has become a transit point for illegal goods. The deputy commissioner of Customs, Nicholas Kinoti, said there is a need to amend the laws that have allowed illegal trade to flourish. “For instance, an export manifest is valid for 30 days and we are asking parliament to amend the law and reduce it to 14 days. This will ensure that cargo does not stay for too long at the port before it is exported,” he said. On April 20, four tonnes of ivory was seized at Bangkok’s main port in a container shipped from Mombasa port, but originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo, destined for Laos. And on April 25, 511 pieces of ivory, weighing over three tonnes and worth $6 million, were found in Bangkok, Thailand, in a container marked as “tea leaves” transported from Mombasa and also destined for Laos. The East African Tea Trade Association had entered into an agreement with KRA in which tea containers were not subjected to scanning due to the high volumes exported daily. Instead, they were loaded under the supervision of Customs officers, a loophole that ivory traders are said to have exploited. Currently, all containers are be- ing scanned, a situation that has resulted in a backlog of export tea at the port due to lack of scanning machines. “The measures taken to facili- tate trade have created loopholes that these people are now exploiting. We need to scrutinise all cargo but this is not possible with only one scanner working and capacity constraints in terms of workforce,” Kenneth Ochola, the KRA officer in charge of operations, told the committee. A Kenya Wildlife Service officer who spoke to The EastAfrican on condition of anonymity said the ivory being shipped through Mombasa port was coming from other countries. “This ivory is definitely from neighbouring countries since the elephants we have lost to poachers in Kenya over the past two years are fewer than the amount of ivory being shipped,” said the officer.
May 31st 2015
Jun 14th 2015