The corruption challenge in energy and water sectors
A survey conducted by the organisers of the African Utility Week reveals that professionals in the energy and water sector are excited about the promising solar photovoltaic (PV) future in Africa – but that major challenges exist, including corruption, skills gaps and access to finance.
The African Utility Week is an annual event that has secured important industry support from sponsors such as Eskom Rotek Industries, Hexing and Landis+Gyr, Aberdare, Africa Utility Solutions, SAP and Sensus.
Survey respondents were asked what they thought would have the biggest impact on the energy and water sectors, what future technology excited them and what the biggest challenges were that they faced in their industry.
Of the 834 people surveyed, 696 were South African (71 percent), 199 were from 24 other African countries (63 Kenyan, 85 Nigerian) and 40 from the rest of the world, including Europe, the United States, China, India and Canada.
Most promising generation source
In answer to the question which was the most promising source of energy generation for Africa, Solar PV scored more than 54% percent amongst the respondents; nuclear was second with 11 percent.
Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl, editor of the energy trade journal ESI Africa, says: “The reason could be that rooftop PV, when measured against the other technologies, is easy to execute as a project and photovoltaic modules are becoming very affordable.”
She explains: “It is the most obvious technology to use in mini- and off-grid projects as well as for use in hybrid models. However, what is interesting but not surprising is that 11 percent of respondents feel that nuclear energy is the most promising generation source.
“Nuclear has its merits. What is disappointing is how few are in favour of biomass as a source of generation capacity, considering that this technology offers a distributed model and a measure of reducing the mounds of waste that Africa’s cities are confronted with.
“Another concern is the lack of interest in wind energy – only 8 percent of respondents regarded this technology to be a worthy source; however, it does rank slightly higher than hydro where the continent’s impressive potential capacity is recorded. Wind energy is likely to make tentative steps towards market growth now that South African, Kenyan and Moroccan wind farms are making good progress.”
Corruption a challenge
At 49 percent, corruption was indicated as the biggest challenge that power and water professionals face in their industries, but issues such as the skills gap, access to finance, regulation and policy clarity, red tape and economic slowdown were also perceived as important hindrances, scoring from 36 percent to 28 percent.
She says: “Corruption is still perceived as a major obstacle and this goes along with respondents’ strong call for government commitment and transparency. It will take concerted leadership from all levels of government to rid the continent of this deeply entrenched challenge.
“The skills gap is also pinned as a high concern, putting development at risk – the loss of engineers, technicians and managers who are now retired or close to retirement age is a real factor; perhaps reviving apprenticeships along with attractive offers would make inroads to solving this challenge.”
The African Utility Week will take place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from May 15 to 17, 2018. Additional events include the Awards Gala Dinner on May 16, 2018 and site visits on May 18, 2018.