Discussions to reform ailing energy industry in the Comoros

27/03/2015
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A High Level Consultation gathering took place on Wednesday, March 25 at the African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan to discuss solutions to ending the energy problem in Comoros. The meeting has cited the important role the private sector can play in the country’s ailing energy industry.

Emmanuel Mbi, First Vice-President of the AfDB, said, “The AfDB is strongly committed to support the energy sector in Comoros and drive the coordination of interventions from development partners and the private sector. Private sector involvement is key to boost energy production and to drive sustainable and inclusive growth.”

Comoros is characterised by immense power deficit, a major constraint to the country’s socio-economic development. The country has the highest rate of energy loss on the continent and the lowest cost recovery rate. 48% of the electricity generated is lost and only 33% of energy sold is actually paid for.

Statistics from the Energy Ministry indicate that about 80% of the country is in darkness, and production level is almost inexistent. Users have access to electricity for just five hours every four days, while in the rural areas residents can go for a whole month without electricity.

The energy crisis is also taking a toll on the country’s health sector. The public maternity hospital, the biggest in the country, has been without electricity, leading to its closure. “The generator serving the facility broke down, and nurses refused to work with candles. Now women give birth in cars or anywhere because they cannot afford a private hospital which is too costly,” said Alfeine Siti Soifiat, of Comoros’s Planning Commissary.

The meeting heard that shortcomings in the country’s power generation systems are due to, among other things, the fact that many generators are out of order due to non-maintenance, high operating costs, and frequent fuel shortages. Abdou Nassur Madi, the Energy Minister, expressed the need to diversify to other energy sources. “We cannot rely on one energy source; we need more than one source in order to meet the energy demands of our country,” he observed.

Similarly, diversification to other energy sources was lauded by the Association of Energy producers of Africa, whose representative Hickem Jemai recommended the use of coal, which has been said to be cheaper. Just last week, at an engagement with journalists in London, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka supported the financing of power plants that use coal because the commodity is less costly. Geothermal development is also explored.  

Convened by the AfDB and Comoros Government, the High Level Consultation brought together development partners, representatives of power companies, and private sector, among others. The event serves as a platform for establishment of a framework for addressing challenges bedeviling Comoros’s energy sector, hence enhancing its contribution to development.

The drafting of an energy masterplan is expected to follow. It will outline reforms, including privatisation and investments needed in the sector, in order for the country to achieve sustainable and affordable energy.

A second High Level Consultation will be held in six months’ time to evaluate the masterplan and adopt actions that will be used to boost the country’s energy sector. The AfDB has two ongoing projects on energy: one involves rehabilitation of power generation plants, amounting to US $20 million. The second one is in support of energy sector reforms, amounting to US $6 million.