29 October 2008 – ‘Africa must harness it’s hydro potential’ is the message coming from the 20th session of the African Hydro symposium being held in Zambia.

Africa has a combined potential capacity for 1 750 000GW per year, but only 4.3% of that is currently being exploited, says Lawrence Musaba, Centre coordinator for the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

There are seven major river systems in Africa – Nile, Congo, Niger, Zambezi, Senegal, Orange and Limpopo – which account for 10% of the world’s hydro potential.  In the quest for cleaner energy and in the face of climate change and increasing demand of electricity, hydro is a feasible option for Africa and the symposium aims to step up regional cooperation and private sector participation in the energy sector in Africa.

Hydro power, which has traditionally been funding by public funds, has been recommended for more involvement from the private sector.

Other recommendations coming out of the symposium include, in order to reduce costs, extend access and ensure supply on sustainable basis, NEPAD should help utilities and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) develop proper policy frameworks, pricing and tariff environments, improve managerial and technical capabilities and improve existing hydro plant capacity.

Donald Kaberuka, AfDB president, stressed the importance of pooling resources and stepping up regional cooperation in order to provide energy services at least cost.

The distribution and concentration of natural energy resources is very localised throughout Africa. Biomass resources are plenty in the equatorial region and a belt along the coast of West Africa all the way to Gambia.  Hydropower is plenty in eastern and southern Africa.  North Africa has 23% of the continent’s hydro-power while West Africa has 25 % and southern and eastern Africa 52%.