The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa – COMESA has developed regional policy frameworks that will assist Member States to improve the quality of solar products that are allowed into the region and achieve the ease the doing of business across borders due to predictable duty regimes.
The policy intends to address the proliferation of low quality of solar energy products which have eroded the confidence in the reliability of solar energy as a viable solution to electrification challenges in the COMESA region.
“We have been facing the challenge of electricity here but with the new policy I am sure people will resort to using solar energy,” said Ndagijimana Leonard one of the traders in Bujumbura.
According to the African Development Bank, Burundi’s access to electricity stands at 6 percent making it one of the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa, despite the country’s cost of generation remains at $0.062/kWh it is considered relatively low as compared to its neighboring countries.
The African Development Bank indicated that Burundi has only 39 MW of installed capacity, of which 95 percent is hydropower-based, and significant renewable energy potential still to be tapped.
The hydropower capacity in Burundi is estimated at 1700MW out of which 300MW is deemed economically viable, while the potential in solar energy is estimated at 2000kWh/ m2/day and average wind speeds recorded at 4-6m/sec.
Studies revealed that the high level of variances in customs duties across the region has been a hindrance to trade and adoption of off grid renewable technologies.
Frameworks that have been developed are the COMESA Model Solar Standards, the COMESA Model Common Customs Tariff Framework for Solar Products and COMESA Model Energy Policy.
The frameworks were presented to experts in energy, customs and standards from Member States for validation in a workshop conducted in Lusaka, Zambia, on 5 – 7 December 2022.
The model solar standards and customs tariffs are intended to promote common standards across the region to spur trade among the Member States. This will enable manufacturing of products in any country for sale anywhere without fear of standards incompatibility.
According to a press release from COMESA, Countries in the region have been undergoing challenges of the harmonization of standards of commodities including food, unlike in EAC where traders need to produce a certificate, the model standards have been vetted by the International Electrochemical Commission (IEC) and the African Electrotechnical Standardization Commission (AFSEC).
The COMESA Model Energy Policy is meant to provide a framework with key issues that should be included in energy policies at Member States’ level.
COMESA developed the Policy in 2008 and has become imperative to review it to cover emerging issues including climate change, e-mobility and renewable energy.
The COMESA Secretariat press release indicated that COMESA Director of Infrastructure Mr Jean-Baptiste Mutabazi said that most COMESA Member States are lagging with regards to the development of energy infrastructure even though commendable progress has been made over the years.
The validation workshop was supported under the Regional Infrastructure Finance Facility (RIFF), which is a World Bank supported project for facilitating an enabling environment and providing credit financing for infrastructure investment in the COMESA and the Trade and Development Bank.
RIFF is a $425 million project co-implemented by TDB and COMESA. The Project aims to promote economic transformation and regional integration in Eastern and Southern Africa by extending long-term development capital to catalyze private sector investment into infrastructure. TDBs share is a credit component of $415 million.
Under the RIFF project, COMESA is providing technical assistance to Member States through the development of various policy and regulatory frameworks, assisting Member States in domesticating these frameworks, facilitating peer to peer learning, and organising capacity building initiatives.
COMESA press release indicated that while addressing the workshop, the Director of Energy in the Ministry of Energy in Zambia, Mr Arnold Simwaba, noted that with advancements in solar technology and the reduction in price, solar technology will form part of the energy mix for electricity generation and offgrid solar will also be viable alternative for electrification.
“In order to ensure that our people are protected from poor quality products we need to have standards that the region can use as a benchmark,” he added.
According to the COMESA data, the total installed power generation capacity in the COMESA region is 92, 00 megawatts (MW), making thermal power dominating the energy sector with more than 69 percent and Hydroelectricity accounting for 30 percent.