Jemma Nunu KumbaExclusive interview with the Hon. Jemma Nunu Kumba, Minister of Electricity, Dams, Irrigation & Water Resources for South Sudan. Minister Kumba is delivering the ministerial keynote address during the opening session of the upcoming EAPIC in Nairobi on 27 August.

What do you see as the main challenges for South Sudan in terms of its energy infrastructure currently?

Since its independence in 1956, the Southern part of Sudan was characterised by severe underdevelopment in all sectors including the electricity infrastructure.

[When it gained] its independence in 2011, the country inherited a system with little or non-existing energy infrastructure.

Furthermore, power infrastructure is capital intensive and requires both public and private capital, which at the moment is not forth-coming.

The plan of the ministry now is to invest in both generation and transmission energy infrastructure as a matter of priority.

Is there cooperation between South Sudan and Sudan with regards to power?

There are options for South Sudan to interconnect with Sudan.  Currently, the ministry is importing about 40MW from Sudan to Renk county, one of the counties in Upper Nile State.

Plans are underway to extend the power to other parts of the state, once peace and stability return to the area.

Which power projects are in the pipeline?

South Sudan has five major hydropower projects with bankable feasibility studies.

These are: Fula Rapids 42MW, Grand Fula 890MW, Shukolli 230MW, Lakki 410MW and Bedden 570MW.  The main challenge is the lack of funding for development of some of these projects.

What opportunities would you say are there for prospective investors in the energy sector in South Sudan?

As mentioned in question three, there are many opportunities for prospective investors in both generation and transmission in the energy sector in South Sudan.

The Electricity Bill 2015 has been passed by Cabinet and awaits endorsement by Parliament.

What incentives are in place for those companies interested in getting involved in projects?

The internal rate of return in these projects is attractive. Several incentives are provided for the Investment Promotion Act in which the investors are guaranteed repatriation of their profit.

Some of these projects are treated as regional projects and if developed, will be connected to the East African Power Pool (EAPP).

More and more projects in this sector on the continent are being financed through Public-Private Partnerships – your views?

The view of the Ministry is that these projects can be developed either as [a] Public- Private Partnership (PPP), Independent Power Producer (IPP), Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) or Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC). As mentioned in answer five, the power market is available in the region and we invite investors to engage with the ministry in that aspect.

You have already played a strong role as a leading woman in South Sudan, in terms of the welfare and empowerment of women, including as the first female governor and now as Minister of Electricity, Dams, Irrigation & Water Resources.  How can a vibrant energy sector help improve the lives of women in the region?

Indeed a vibrant energy sector can play a pivotal (fundamental) role in improving the lives of women in the region.

The reasons are many and vary from different perspectives because the demands are not the same.  But in a nutshell, energy is required by all.  The new energy technologies provide a cleaner environment and energy, hence the improved health conditions of women.

Women spend most of their time fetching firewood for cooking and other domestic use. The availability of clean and easy access to energy will save women’s time and enable them to engage in other productive activities.

With particular reference to household energy, which women are the most concerned, be a working woman, a housewife, a female entrepreneur, etc. In this competitive world, there is a need to cut on time usage.

Hence the need for modern energy resources— The women need modern energy resources to improve not only profitability, but also efficiency and production of quality products.

How can we motivate more women to enter the energy sector?

South Sudan is gender sensitive, having recognised the fact that men and women play different roles, but both are complementary for the ultimate success of any undertaking.

There are many women holding public offices such as in Parliament, Government and the private sector, as well as the business community, etc.

With the current trend, in which more women are pursuing studies in different fields such as engineering, medicine, etc., there will be many women competing for jobs in the energy sector and surely they are potential candidates to fill the gap in the industry.

You will be heading up a delegation to the upcoming East African Power Industry Convention (EAPIC) – how important are such regional meetings?

As a new nation, South Sudan will be proud to demonstrate to this upcoming regional conference of East African Power Industry that South Sudan has abundant energy resources, which can be tapped for the common good and development, not only for South Sudan, but the entire East African region.

What will be your message at the event?

South Sudan welcomes investors to invest in the development of the abundant renewable energy potential in the country.

Anything you would like to add?

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to elaborate and inform the region about South Sudan’s abundant energy potential and investment opportunities and to welcome potential investors to South Sudan. I look forward to meeting you all at the conference, God willing.