Access to reliable, sustainable, and affordable electricity helps improve the living standard of all. However, half of the population of the over 400 million people in the Ecowas sub-region has no access to energy, according to Sidie Mohamed Tunis, Speaker of the Ecowas Parliament.
The Ecowas top Lawmaker addressed sub-regional delegates at the start of a five-day Joint Parliamentary Committee in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the theme “Building the regional energy market for a just energy transition.”
“With a total population of over 400 million people, only 220 million (54%) have access to electricity, while the remaining 180 million (46%) lack access to power due to low generation or poor distribution capacity,” said Speaker Tunis, who went further to described it as “this unfortunate reality has impacted negatively on the performance and competitiveness of our businesses, particularly our seven manufacturing plants that rely heavily on the sustainable power supply to survive.”
He said the energy issue, particularly the need for an energy transition, is at the heart of the sub-regions economies and national productivity.
For Speaker Tunis, no single state can provide sustainable solutions to these challenges, thus the need for a concerted effort.
“With this in mind, the Member States have set up the West African Power Pool to create a system of interconnection of electricity networks aimed at enabling a better distribution of energy resources to compensate for the production deficit of member states. Indeed, the construction of major roads and rail arteries between our capitals will allow for a more intense movement of people and goods. However, we must also agree that the physical interconnection infrastructure of the electricity networks being developed within the framework of the regional electricity market is, without a doubt, the veins that will enable the transporting and sharing of life-giving energy for the concrete integration of the sub-region.”
To achieve its meeting objectives, the Joint Parliamentary Committee benefits from the presence of Resource Persons and Stakeholders from relevant ECOWAS Institutions and Agencies, as well as Experts from the region who have produced high-quality reports and studies on the process of creating the regional electricity market.
Dr. Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, the Vice President of Sierra Leone, said that the heart of the underdevelopment in the sub-region is attributed to the energy supply deficit, which is unquestionably the backbone of any country’s development.
“No country or region would develop or prosper without energy, as energy is vital to the productive sector, which holds the key to economic development.”
VP Jalloh said the region is still struggling to meet its growing energy needs, as he shared with the meeting some of the gains registered in Sierra Leone since 2018.
“In Sierra Leone, when we took over in 2018, the energy sector was plagued with many challenges. First, energy access was 16 percent because there was inadequate generation, a high cost of electricity, and a lack of transmission and distribution lines. But when we took over in 2018, we developed a strategic plan to turn around this story by increasing energy generation access to over 35 percent.”
He informed the Ecowas Parliament Joint meeting that the Government of Sierra Leone, through the energy ministry, created an off-grid solar solution to provide solar renewable energy to over 56 small villages and towns.
According to Vice President Jalloh, his government has also passed a regulation allowing the participation of the private sector in the energy market. “As a Government, we want to shift from utility energy to produce energy.”
He calls for creative thinking to boost the energy sector by encouraging Banks to move from commercial banking to project financing to mobilize the needed resources.