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The first International Conference and Exhibition on Water Storage and Hydropower Development for Africa entitled “Africa 2013” was held for three consecutive days, from Tuesday to Thursday, at the African Union Commission (AUC).
Ethiopia received accolades for being the leader in water resources development at the conference, which more than 600 participants from about 70 countries from all over the world, attended. As infrastructure plays a key role in economic growth and poverty reduction, and lack of infrastructure leads to increased production and transaction costs, the African Union Commission (AUC), the Secretariat of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) are implementing a Program for Infrastructure Development for Africa (PIDA) initiative to optimize efforts and utilization of resources enabling African stakeholders to converge on a common agenda; infrastructure development. PIDA will also merge various continental infrastructure initiatives, such as the NEPAD Short Term Action Plan, the NEPAD Medium-to-Long Term Strategic Framework (MLTSF), and the AU Infrastructure Master Plan initiatives into one coherent program for the entire continent, covering all the four key sectors; Transport, Energy, Trans-boundary Water, and ICT. The initiative will also develop a short, medium and long-term infrastructure investment program built around key priorities and shall include an implementation strategy and priority action plan. As the next step for PIDA, Africa 2013 was organized by Aqua-Media International of the UK in partnership with the International Commission on Large Dams and the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) as an ideal opportunity to further international dialogue on this initiative, according to Lukas Port (PhD), Sales and Marketing Manager for the International Journal on Hydropower & Dams.
Participants of the conference held discussions on hydropower development potential, development plans, project finance, contractual aspects, capacity building, dam safety engineering, hydrology and flood drainage works, dam design and application, management of reservoir sedimentation, environmental issues and climate change. A draft final declaration of the conference also revealed that hydropower potential in Africa is vast and under-utilized and the political will was there for development, as African ministers had delivered a strong message of support for hydropower development with the 2006 Ministerial Declarations in Johannesburg and Addis Ababa. Institutions are also encouraging the development of hydropower and international lenders are now supporting such initiatives, because production costs for hydropower generation, which is clean and provides a solution to the problem of climate change, are relatively cheap and independent of fluctuations in fossil fuel prices, while the prices for generating other types of power are generally rising. It is therefore recommended that Africa must seize this opportunity as it is time for significant developments of dams and hydropower energy.
According to Mihiret Debebe, CEO of EEPCo, many international companies didn’t turn their attention to Africa because of the wrong perceptions they had about the continent. However, this event had brought together many of them, who regretted not coming here earlier, after seeing the potential Africa has. The event, which was attended by several ministers, utility executives, industry leaders and other important people, was a great success for Africa because of the commitment big companies have made to participate in the continent’s hydropower development. According to Mihiret, It is also a success for the country, because it has enabled it to reveal all hydropower and other renewable energy development projects it has undertaken and is undertaking. “Our country has been praised as exemplary in hydropower and renewable energy development,” he said. “It has also brought about technology transfer and expertise exchange.”
Alison Bartle, Director of Aqua-Media, who believes that hydropower and water resources development has reached a major turning point across the continent, reported that 608 registered participants from 67 countries had participated during the three days of intense discussions. She said Ethiopia is truly the leader in the development underway. Other very significant schemes are also moving ahead in the center, west and south of the continent, she stated.
The event will regularly take place every two years. Kenya or other African countries might be hosting the next edition of the event, but Ethiopia is still on the top of the list, as it is the political center of Africa and is the seat of the African Union (AU), as well as center of several major hydropower development projects, according to Lukas.
INTPOW, a non-profit networking organization founded in a joint venture between the Norwegian Renewable Industry and the Norwegian government, to promote cooperation between Norwegian and foreign players in the renewable energy industry, has also brought a delegation of 17 people from seven Norwegian companies including Agua Imara, Norconsult, ICH, Veidekke, Norplan, Rainpower and Export Credit, under the banner “Norway Powered by nature”, which have highly contributed to the event. The organization also organized several side events before heading for Zambia to visit the hydro power plant close to the town of Kabwe, owned by Agua Imara and meet Zambian energy executives. Later on, they will be present at a Zambian-Norwegian Hydropower seminar with representatives from the local businesses.