20 September 2010 – Zimbabwe blew an opportunity to lure international energy investors when it snubbed the first high-ranking Africa- European Union Energy Partnership (AEEP) meeting in Vienna, Austria, this week.
The country sent a junior diplomat to the meeting, whose aim was to secure renewable energy supplies for at least 100 million people on the continent by 2020.
Zimbabwe is going through one of its worst energy crises since Independence in 1980 despite boasting vast untapped natural energy reserves, which include methane gas.
Some African countries, excluding Zimbabwe, struck deals at the meeting, according to French Minister for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Sea Green Technology and Climate Change Negotiations, Jean-Louis Borloo.
Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Austria, Grace Mutandiro, briefly attended the meeting, and left after an hour while several African countries, including South Africa, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo, Senegal and Morocco sent their energy ministers.
A junior diplomat, Silibaziso Mangonya, was left to follow proceedings after Mutandiro left. Mangonya said Mutandiro had to rush for another important meeting when quizzed why Zimbabwe appeared not to take such an opportunity more seriously.
It was not possible to get a comment from Energy minister Elton Mangoma. Industry cites electricity shortages as one of the biggest hindrances to Zimbabwe’s economic recovery bid. The country desperately needs investors to build new power plants and rehabilitate obsolete equipment.
Recently, government announced that the country would soon open its doors to investors in the energy sector to invest as independent power producers or participate in public-private partnership arrangements in the development of larger power projects in the country.
The country’s energy sector produces a daily average of 1100 megawatts of electricity on average against demand of 2100 megawatts. The shortfall is met by imports from regional countries. Zimbabwe’s absence at the meeting attended by European financiers and energy companies robbed the country of an opportunity to enhance this drive.
Most African ministers and their delegations used the opportunity to engage in bilateral negotiations both with their European counterparts and potential financiers.