|Zambezi River Basin stateswork towards preventing total darkness|
Faced with a crippling shortage of electricity, Zambezi basin riparian states are
making efforts to increase power generation and distribution, and prevent total
Despite the electricity shortages, the Zambezi
River Basin is well-endowed with large deposits
of coal, uranium and gas, as well as abundant
water resources for hydropower generation.
The basin also has long hours of sunshine,
fair wind speeds and biomass for the generation
of electricity from solar, wind and biogas,
According to the State of the Environment
Zambezi Basin 2000, the Zambezi River has an
estimated hydro-power generation capacity of
20,000 mega watts (MW), which is almost
enough to meet the energy requirements of the
eight riparian countries. However, only 23
percent of this potential has been developed.
The basin is also said to have a large potential
to generate thermal power. All the known,
exploitable coal reserves for Malawi,
Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe are found
in the Zambezi River Basin. The four countries have 1,986 million tonnes of coal reserves of
which 86 percent is found in Zimbabwe.
Namibia, which has the second largest recoverable
uranium reserves in Africa after South
Africa, has a potential to generate nuclear electricity.
Only South Africa's Koeberg power plant
presently produces nuclear electricity in Africa.
According to the World Energy, Namibia was
the second producer of uranium in Africa in 2002
after Niger, producing 2,333 tonnes. Other
known uranium reserves in the Zambezi River
Basin are found in Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Although solar power is largely used in
simple traditional applications such as lighting
and heating, encouraging results in its use have
been achieved in Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Using their potential for electricity generation,
Zambezi River Basin riparian countries, through
the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), are
making efforts to ease current energy shortages.
Zambia and the United Republic of Tanzania, both basin
states, and Kenya have decided to link their power utilities in a
move meant to ease electricity shortages for the three countries.
The Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya Power Interconnection Project, is
expected to facilitate the sharing of electricity between Tanzania
and Kenya, and the Southern African Power Pool, improve efficiency
in electricity transmission and reduce electricity costs.
The interconnection will be developed in two phases at an
estimated cost of US$660 million.
The first phase, to cost US$358 million, is scheduled to start
in late 2007 and will be completed by 2009. It will build a
transfer capacity of 200 MW of electricity.
Phase two is to cost US$302 million for another transfer
capacity of 400 MW upon completion in 2014.
Other projects planned for the Zambezi River Basin include
three thermal power stations that Zimbabwe intends to
construct with support from China.
A Zimbabwean firm, Ele Resources, has entered into a US$1.3
billion deal with China Machine-Building International
Corporation for a joint venture that will result in the development
of three thermal power stations and a coalmine in the
The first of the power projects will be ready for electricity
generation by the end of 2009, according to Evison Musangeya,
chief executive of Dande Capital Holdings, the parent company
of Ele Resources.
South Africa, which exports electricity to the Zambezi River
Basin countries, is planning three big projects to cater for an
anticipated six percent economic growth in South Africa and the
resultant growth in power demand.
A new coal-fired power station would be built in the
Limpopo province, and will have an output of 2,250MW.
The other project would see the construction of a 1,332MW
pumped storage station in the Drakensberg, while an opencycle
gas turbine with a capacity of 1,022MW would be built in
the Western Cape.
The projected shortage of power in southern Africa by 2007 has
already gripped the region with most of the mainland SADC
countries facing severe and
incessant power outages.
Load shedding has
become the order of the day in the bulk of the mainland SADC countries, including most of
the eight Zambezi River Basin riparian countries.
In Botswana there are growing concerns over continuous
power disruptions although these are not viewed as an
indicator of a developing trend.
Zimbabwe, which imports 35 percent of its electricity
requirements, is experiencing regular electricity blackouts with
serious consequences on industry, agriculture and domestic
Namibia introduced load shedding in November 2005
following the closure for maintenance of the Koeberg nuclear
power plant in South Africa from which the country drew its
South Africa which generates 41,298 MW and is a major
exporter of electricity to the Zambezi River Basin countries has
also been affected by recurrent electricity blackouts following
closure of the Koeberg plant. The Eastern and Western Cape
areas have been the most affected.
Tanzania, which mainly relies on hydro-electricity, has also
experienced power shortages due to falling dam levels caused
by little or delayed rains. Hydro-electricity accounts for 67
percent of the country's total available installed capacity.
Tanzania has a total hydroelectric potential in excess of 4.7
Gigawatts of which only five percent has been developed.
Diminishing generation surplus capacity, growing demand
and the non-viability of the largely state-owned energy generation
industry are blamed for the crippling shortage of electricity.
Little investment in the power generation sector in recent
times has resulted in reduced capacity to share surplus electricity
by the few exporting countries such as the Democratic
Republic of Congo, Mozambique and South Africa.
The Zimbabwe's Daily Mirror quotes Ben Rafemoyo, the
Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company managing
director, as saying southern Africa is racing towards a situation
where even current net exporters will confine themselves to
their local markets.
The energy sector in southern Africa is largely state-funded,
with most national providers charging non-economic tariffs. As
a result the sector has not seen
new investments coming on
stream due to losses or the small
profit margins realised.
The power outages in the basin
have also been due to disturbances
to the transmission
Bush fires have been blamed for
some of the power outages. For
example, in 2004 the Zimbabwe
Electricity Supply Authority lost
60MW after the Warren-Alaska
transmission line tripped due to
Similarly the Zambia Electricity
Supply Company lost 115MW in
2004 due to fires caused by
farmers who were preparing their