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Exclusive interview with Stephen Olumuyiwa

“We need to evolve the appropriate governance models coupled with the appropriate legal and commercial frameworks Stephenthat will ensure the flow of the required finances.”

Exclusive interview with Stephen Olumuyiwa, Project Manager: Transmission, Niger Delta Power Holding Coy (NDPHC) Ltd, Nigeria, speaker at the upcoming African Utility Week.

1.Why are you so passionate about the energy sector?
I have spent over 90% of my professional life in the energy sector. As an African who desires to see the rise of African nations economically, it is evident that increased availability of energy especially Electrical Power continues to be the way forward for the emergence of more prosperous and sustainable national economies especially in my native country – Nigeria.

2.Which current trends / developments in the Nigerian energy sector are you most excited about?
There are two key developments that are on-going in the Nigerian energy sector which are happening simultaneously: (a) The Power Sector reform with the potential of leap-frogging the power sector into the financially sustainable and viable industry that exists elsewhere, and (b) The rapid infrastructure development that is currently being driven by the Nigerian government special purpose vehicle – The National Integrated Power Project (NIPP).

3.Nigeria has a reformed electricity market. What lessons would you like to share with the rest of Africa?
Our Electricity Market Reforms are still works in progress. The Transition Electricity Market (TEM) has just taken off. There are many lessons that are being learned as we progress but there are two that immediately come to mind.  Many of the new owners of the Generation and distribution companies are finding out that they did not do enough due diligence in assessing the units they bought. This is causing quite a bit of financial challenges especially in meeting up with the capital injection required to enable their companies to function as viable market participants. Again in the rush to ‘right size’, some of these companies rather hurriedly discarded a number of the personnel they inherited with the consequence of drastic and negative impact on their operational and maintenance capabilities.

4.Any specific projects/success stories that have made a huge difference that you can share?
The NIPP basket of Generation, Transmission and Distribution projects that have made unprecedented impact on the capacity and stability of the Nigerian grid system stands as a remarkable success story from Nigeria for Africa. Under this project we put in place ten gas to power generating stations adding over 4500MW to the national grid, with over 3000kms of 330kV and 132kV mainly double circuit lines spread all over Nigeria’s vast territory.

5.What in your opinion are the biggest challenges that the African utility/energy industry is facing currently?
I believe the greatest challenge so far is the lack of appropriate finance that can transform the massive energy potentials on the continent to the viable and sustainable energy markets that Africa deserves and needs going forward. The reason why that finance remains unavailable is traceable to the poor or inadequate governance models that are currently in place for managing Africa’s energy institutions. We need to evolve the appropriate governance models coupled with the appropriate legal and commercial frameworks that will ensure the flow of the required finances.

6.What excites you about this industry?
I am excited about the limitless possibilities that abound in the industry and the chances that ours may be the generation to catapult Africa to greatness as the industry matures.

7.What surprises you about this industry?
The greatest surprise I have is that many African governments left this industry unattended to since independence. African nations are mostly now in their upper 50s in age as independent nations. They treated it in the most as a mere social service rather than the economic infrastructure that it should be. It is only in the past decade that Nations like Nigeria began to awake to that realization and are now making bold and ambitious efforts at reversing the trend.

8.Why are you speaking at African Utility Week, what is your opinion about the event?
I am speaking at the AUW 2015 because I was invited so to do. I am hoping that the AUW platform will allow me the appropriate forum to showcase to the world the little known but unprecedented levels of infrastructural deficit redress that the Nigerian government has been implementing over the past decade.

9.What will be your message at African Utility Week?
Africa remains a rising economic giant that will soon take its rightful place on the planet. It is currently still viewed as the ‘dark continent’. As we connect Africa’s abundant raw energy resources into properly engineered and enduring power infrastructures, we will see Africa not only lit up into brightness but inevitably transformed into a strong economic continent of nations with thriving small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) as well as veritable industrialised entities.