Blessings Chidakwa and Tendai Mugabe
Energy remains a critical pillar for Zimbabwe and the continent to develop, modernise and industrialise, President Mnangagwa has said.
Speaking on arrival at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport from Ethiopia where he attended the 33rd Ordinary Summit of the African Union (AU), the President said African countries should address energy challenges which affected industrial output and spawned job losses.
Zimbabwe is in a unique situation among its peers as it was slapped with illegal sanctions by the West and cannot access lines of credit to speed up permanent solutions to electricity and fuel shortages.
Said President Mnangagwa: “The issue of energy is a challenge on the entire continent. However, Zimbabwe is in the unique situation as it has the burden of sanctions. Whereas other member states of the AU can access lines of credit easily, Zimbabwe does not have that possibility; that is the unique position in which we are.
“However, we have said as a continent we should, as regional blocs, look at how we can resolve collectively the issue of energy. As a continent, we have to resolve the issues of energy because for us to develop, for us to industrialise, for us to modernise, we cannot exclude the need for energy as an enabler to achieve that vision.”
During the just-ended AU summit, the Presidential Panel on Innovative Financing in Energy in Africa focused on energy demand, which is projected to grow dramatically owing to population growth, a growing middle class, industrialisation, trade expansion, urbanisation and climate change.
The panel also discussed new innovative approaches, particularly through instruments that support clean energy.
Investments were needed urgently to mobilise funds for Africa’s energy transformation.
Responding to questions during the panel discussion, President Mnangagwa said every African leader realises that the modernisation and industrialisation of economies required energy.
An environment conducive to attract private companies to generate electricity was needed.
“There are three levels: the first level is the generation of power itself. That is where we must begin. The second aspect is transmission and the third is its distribution.
“Now, for Zimbabwe, the challenge is generation, the first level. We need to have those with the capital to come to Zimbabwe to generate energy, either hydro, solar or thermal.”
He said agriculture required energy to drive and modernise it in the face of climate change and Zimbabwe required energy to exploit its abundant minerals. Infrastructure for tourism and the manufacturing sectors was hit in the past two decades by sanctions but there was need for energy to revive infrastructure to enable value addition of goods.
President Mnangagwa added: “So it is critically important that we begin at the correct level, that is generation. The question of vision, the question of manpower I don’t think we have a deficit in that area.
“We know what we want to achieve and it is the means that we want to have. I am happy that a forum like this one,” he told the panel, “exposes us as leaders to possibilities that are there. I didn’t know that there is a company like that of Mr Scott (Mather) seated there, he is running a fund of over US$2 trillion. I have never heard of it in my region.”
Turning to the summit, the President said besides rallying support for the immediate removal of sanctions, it also focused on security threats for the continent.
The leaders discussed at length the security situation in North and West Africa, especially in Libya.
President Mnangagwa said African leaders should come up together and resolve problems confronting the continent instead of allowing foreigners to interfere.
Asked about the peer review mechanism which Zimbabwe is now party to, President Mnangagwa said: “Yes we signed. Zimbabwe signed; l didn’t see any problem why we did not join.
“It is a very good platform where we interrogated the issues of governance and issues of funding; so Zimbabwe is now on board.”
The President his South African counterpart President Cyril Ramphosa and discussed a number of issues, including challenges faced by both countries and possible ways of overcoming them.