Energy Minister says separating NAWEC’s water & electricity operations will alleviate the financial strain on the national budget

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By: Kebba Ansu Manneh
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Nani Juwara, the Minister of Petroleum and Energy, has revealed that separating the electricity and water services of the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) will enhance service delivery, sharpen the focus on water services, boost investment in infrastructure for both services and alleviate the financial strain on the national budget.

The Minister of Petroleum and Energy revealed this information during his keynote speech at a daylong consultation workshop, the Millennium Challenge Account-Gambia, held on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. He mentioned that the strategy to separate NAWEC’s electricity and water services was initially introduced in the National Electricity Policy of 2015/2020 and was reiterated in the Updated National Electricity Sub-Sector Strategic Roadmap of 2021.

“Guided by the drive of improvement in the operational efficiency and leveling the playing field to encourage private sector participation in the power sector, the Government of The Gambia intends to decouple the electricity and water businesses of NAWEC. The policy of decoupling NAWEC’S electricity and water services was first highlighted in the 2015/2020 National Electricity Policy and was further emphasized in the 2021 Updated National Electricity Sub-sector Strategic Roadmap,” Nani Juwara Minister of Petroleum and Energy revealed.

He added: “It is envisaged that the separation will lead to improved service delivery, increased focus on water services, increased investment in both services infrastructure, and reduced financial burden on the national budget. It is important to note that NAWEC Water and Electricity separation is a priority for the Government. As such, the study is supported by a grant financing of $25 million received from the Government of the United States of America through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).”

According to him, the MCC intervention, complemented by support from other development partners, will help the Government of The Gambia reduce the challenges of unreliable, inadequate electricity supply in the country. He noted that the MCC studies will offer optimal answers to the long question of infrastructure for a modern utility that will meet the aspirations of the Gambian people.

“The conversation for the separation of the NAWEC Water and Electricity business has been ongoing for a long time, and collaboration and support during this consultation workshop would be crucial. The outcome of this workshop will help The Gambia make an evidence-based decision in forging a sustainable path for the supply of clean, reliable, and affordable electricity and water services for all Gambians,” the Petroleum and Energy Minister further explained.

He added, “Besides, the current Nawec structures are already designed to facilitate the separation of water and electricity services, which, as I speak, is already separated. Therefore, the goal of the studies is to increase a better understanding of the implications of the physical and legal separation of the two services.”

Minister Juwara continues to observe that it is essential to acknowledge the entangling Nawec complex infrastructure and business units of the water and electricity had inherent challenges that must be managed appropriately to ensure a smooth transition, adding that the consultative workshop will help the Government to map out the challenges through various options presented by the consultants and chose the best option that will suit the needs of the Gambian people.

“This consultative workshop is an important step in the reform process of NAWEC; it also calls for the need to acknowledge that every reform comes with challenges. It is, therefore, imperative to reflect on the nature of the utility that NAWEC as an indispensable service provider to all Gambians; thus, all options presented by the consultant must be critically assessed thoroughly, and aid in reaching decisions that will serve the interest of all Gambians for a better life,” Saffie Dambelleh, CEO, Millenium Challenge Account-Gambia disclosed.

Saffie Dambelleh, CEO, Millenium Challenge Account-Gambia

He added: ” At this synergy, management of this separation process of these two critical services must consider the business continuity issue. In support of this separation process, the MCC intervention through the $25 million threshold program, the MCA, in consultation with the MCC, may consider funding critical activities through action requests under the threshold program; this move aimed to help the attainment of the program objectives using the Problem Driven Iterative Approach (PDIA).”

CEO Dambelleh continues to observe that the presence of four ministers at the consultative workshop depicts the importance attached by the Gambia Government towards the separation of the NAWEC Water and Electricity business while extending special gratitude to both MCC, the consultants GFA Consultancy of Germany and MCA-G team in the Gambia for their relentless commitment in ensuring that the two essential businesses of NAWEC are safely decoupled.

Momodou Lamin Sompo Ceesay, a senior official at the MCA-G office, presented the various options for decoupling and called on the stakeholders to critically examine them before making a decision.

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