ON June 20, 2020, I authored an article calling upon Government to seriously consider increasing funding to the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) in view of the call by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 7 which calls for universal access to clean, affordable and sustainable energy for all by the year 2030.
This was not the first time I was lobbying Government on this but I have spoken about it on numerous fora including when I was hosted on Radio Phoenix flagship platform “Let the People Talk”
Programme. Am aware that other advocates have also talked about increasing funding to REA. I acknowledge their efforts.
The basis for sustained lobbying emanates from the REA Master Plan which indicates that REA would achieve 51 percent rural electrifica-tion by 2030. This achievement is based on the annual funding which is indicated in the master plan.
In particular, the Rural Electrification Authority master plan has projected that it will reach 51 percent from three percent rural electrification rate by 2030 based on its annual master plan budget of US$50 million.
“This means that unless something is done about it, UN SDG number 7 will not be reached by Zambia by 2030. On the otherside, we have challenged ourselves not to leave anyone behind. This implies that there is desire and ambition to connect everyone. My question is, “is it impossible for Zambia to reach UN SDG number 7?” Yes it is possible with strong political will.
Recently, I was invited to ZNBC TV 1 to be part of the various experts to express views of what we thought President Edgar Lungu would talk about in his address to Parliament.
I was once again invited to the same studio to participate in analysing the 2021 Budget from an energy sector point of view. On all occa-sions, I was consistent that I expect Government to improve upon the previous funding to REA and to ensure that the legacy project for Pres-ident Lungu – The 750MW Kafue Lower Gorge Power Plant remains on schedule.
It is very gratifying that Government has increased funding to REA from K166 million allocated in 2020 budget to K307 million in the 2021 budget. This is commendable and I would like to encourage Government to continue doubling this amount so that by 2030, at least we could cross 70 percent rural electrification rate. Without sustained increased funding to REA, it would be difficult to even achieve the 51 percent which is appearing in their own master plan.
In 2005, Government initiated the process of setting Vision 2030. The process of preparing this vision was done through a participatory and consultative process that covered all the 72 districts. Zambia’s 2030 vision is to be “A prosperous Middle Income Nation by 2030.” This is our long term national vision.
This vision, which is being operationalised through five-year development plans starting with the Fifth National Development Plan (2006-2010), highlights three scenarios outlining development options, namely the baseline, the preferred and the optimistic.
The vision outlines the desirable long-term paths of the socio-economic indicators to satisfy people’s aspirations, and articulate possible long term alternative development policy scenarios at different points. The socio-economic development objectives enshrined in the preferred scenario include the following:
• To attain and sustain real growth of 6 percent (2006-2010), 8 percent (2011-2015), 9 percent (2016-2020) and 10 percent between 2021 and 2030.
• To attain and maintain a moderate inflation rate of 5 percent and to reduce national poverty head count to less than 20 percent of the population.
The vision 2030, which is Zambia’s first ever written long term plan, is about creating a strong and dynamic middle income industrial na-tion. The realisation of this vision depends on actions and measures that will be undertaken by Government, private sector cooperating part-ners, civil society and individuals through short and medium term national development plans.
I am a firm believer in being visionary and target driven. I believe that this national vision is tenable. I can only hope that there will be no policy reversals that underpin this vision.
One of the factors that has affected Africa’s development negatively is policy reversals that accompany a new leader when he gets power. A new leader’s propensity for changes, and grandiose appetite to leave a legacy of his own, has in most cases taken nations backwards.
For every vision to be tenable, necessary safety nets must be put in place to insulate the vision against vagaries of life. The ability to identify and handle adversities of life determines the attainability of every vision. The vision 2030, like any other vision is vulnerable to adversities, and without determination, dedication, discipline and focus, it is not possible to attain enviable status in life.
I strongly feel that it is possible for Zambia to reach UN SDG 7 which calls for universal access to clean, affordable and sustainable energy for all by 2030.
If REA will achieve 51 percent from three percent electrification by 2030 based on an annual budget of US$50 million for its master plan which runs up to 2030, then increasing this funding by 100 percent can make REA achieve at least 90 percent electrification.
Raising an annual budget of US$100 million from a range of policy measures and other means is not an impossible task. We need to give ourselves very strong targets.
REA has so far done well and must be commended for the strategic role it has been playing. What is needed is to give more support to REA as one of the best conduits to achieving UN SDG 7.
To achieve our own vision 2030, we need to increase resource allocation to REA over and above the US$50 million earmarked for the master plan which it has been implementing up to 2030.
To be honest, we should not encourage ourselves that 51 percent achievement is good ending. We need to aim for 100 percent. The extra US$50 million to make it happen can come from a range of policy measures and other sources.
Surely, looking at the size of some expenditure we have been making as a country, planning to spend US$100 million on rural electrification up to 2030 is achievable.
There is a basis for REA to re-engage and realign the REA master plan which runs up to 2030 with the expectations of the 7th National Development Plan statement of intent, “Accelerating Development Efforts towards Vision 2030 without Leaving Anyone Behind.”
If no one must be left behind, REA must re-engage and push for increased funding through a range of policy measures.
*The author is an energy expert and a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Zambia, a PhD candidate at Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.