8 November 2012

Cameroon: Private Sector Viable for Accessible Electricity

A plethora of problems rocking the sector of electricity seem to have their solutions embedded just within, according to stakeholders at an on-going international forum due to run from November 6-10 in Douala.

More capital investment has rather been pumped into rural electrification for lighting than it should for industrial uses which have enormous positive effects on economic development. As a matter of fact, unclear policies, financial and material insufficiency are to blame. This view by Jean David Bile, General Manager of AES Sonel, was supported by the fact that Cameroon produces only 1400 megawatts of electricity, covering on average 28 per cent of the territory, with as much as 80 per cent of power users concentrated in Yaounde and Douala, while more than 95 per cent of aluminium cables used are imported from countries like Ivory Coast and France. Within this backdrop, Jean-Pierre Kedi, General Manager ARSEL, speaking at the forum, proposed the electrification of all 336 subdivisions.

However, private sector representatives said though liberalised, the sector of electricity still suffers monopoly. They fear investing in a sector where the law of application is not clear. The State of Cameroon holds that the 2006 law provides for private investors to contract partnerships to operate the national power utility corporation at all levels. Despite the fact that this law exists until now only few private operators are involved in production, transmission and distribution of the public electricity, now run by AES Sonel. Pr. Touna Mama, coordinator of Cameroon Business Forum, attributes the inadequate private investors in electricity operations to ignorant of the advantages of partnerships provided by the 2006 law. Communities and the State should dialogue to overcome inequality of power distribution.

If government helps creation of local companies to produce cables and metallic poles to replace all wooden poles, according to the General Manager of Technologuie Zentrum, it will cut-down on electricity expenditures and save enough money for expansion of the sector. Désiré Nansi describes Cameroon as a land blessed with numerous mineral resources to produce cheap quality material for its power sector but it needs to reshape its policies and set up short and long-term development visions. An additional 1100 megawatts of electricity is needed to meet its energy needs by 2015.

Beside Cameroon, there is Tunisia, Nigeria, France and German which constitutes a wealth of experience vital to get the countries out of the doldrums while increasing the equitability of power distribution.

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