The crippling regional electricity shortage and spreading drought are the elephants in the room as senior SADC technocrats begin a series of high-level meetings in Gaborone, in the build-up to next week’s Heads of State Summit
Yesterday, senior officials from SADC member states began deliberating sectoral issues ranging from trade, finance, infrastructure, agriculture and other sectors in various technical committees.
The Council of Ministers, which comprises foreign affairs and finance ministers from each member state, will receive reports from the technical committees, ahead of the Heads of State summit, which starts next Monday.
The leaders meet as electricity shortages continue to grip the region, with a 4,592-megawatt deficit in the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) by March 31, 2014, which are the latest available official figures.
The SAPP represents regional electricity utilities. In South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, however, the deficit has been sharper, forcing prolonged and sporadic load shedding, particularly over the colder seasons.
In Botswana, load shedding in winter had been largely kept at bay by a novel demand limit programme, until a tube leak at Morupule B last Friday brought outages lasting up to eight and half hours per day in certain parts of the country.
According to briefs from the technical committees, the ministers and the heads of state will be given details on a Project Acceleration Unit, which has been established at the SAPP Coordination Centre.
“The Project Acceleration Unit has been established to package bankable energy projects in the region timely. It is has been established with support from the World Bank worth US$20 million,” reads an infrastructural and services brief. The Unit is expected to be operational by the second quarter of 2015/2016.”
The prevailing drought in the region is also expected to come up for discussion, with the presentation of food security vulnerability assessment reports for member states.
South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and most other SADC member states are battling low crop production and livestock distress following a disastrous 2014/15 farming season characterised by low, late rains, persistent heat waves and dry conditions. In Botswana, President Ian Khama declared a drought late June, announcing an array of interventions including support for the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme, a 25 percent subsidy to farmers on certain livestock feed purchased through the Livestock Advisory Centres as well as nutritional support for vulnerable groups.Parliament recently approved P445.1 million in funding for the interventions.
SADC leaders are also expected to discuss political unrest in Lesotho, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, while also receiving reports from the SADC Electoral Observation Mission, which covered elections in Botswana, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Mauritius, Zambia and Lesotho.
Khama is expected to take over chairmanship of SADC next Monday, with the current chair, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, performing the ceremonial handover of the badge.