African power utilities support recovery plan

Africa's top power utilities said on Wednesday they were ready to take a leading role in a recovery plan for the continent through the provision of infrastructure development.

The Union of Producers, Conveyors and Distributors of Electrical Energy in Africa (UPDEA) has secured a mandate to partner the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) in the development of the electricity industry.

NEPAD is a new recovery plan for Africa, modelled on the U.S. Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War Two.

The plan targets billions of dollars in annual investment to revive African economies and alleviate poverty, with African leaders pledging good political and economic governance in return.

"UPDEA will be the primary catalyst for the realisation of access to electricity by all the people of Africa," EPDEA president Thulani Gcabashe told reporters.

Gcabashe is also the chief executive of South African state-owned power utility Eskom.

Eskom chairman Reuel Khoza has been one of the key supporters of NEPAD, taking part in efforts to motivate African businesses to back their governments in initiatives.

UPDEA has an observer status in the Organisation of African Union, which will be replaced next month with the African Union.

"Our focus will be on infrastructure development...to create regional power structures and pools. We will also be available beyond the infrastructure level to assist within our financial capabilities," said Gcabashe.

Eskom, Africa's biggest power utility, is extensively involved in projects in the continent ranging from the rehabilitation of power stations and setting up of telecommunications networks.

Information on what projects will be included in NEPAD have been scant so far, but they would include the interconnected African electricity grid. Investment in this project is regarded as pivotal towards the sustainable development of Africa.

Representatives of the 31-member UPDEA meet in South Africa next week for a four-day conference to address management issues and the development of a power pool.

"Our industry is in the midst of dramatic change. As globalisation challenges the concept of national boundaries to trade, it is business rather than developmental needs that are now driving investment in the power sector," said Gcabashe.

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