Formerly dependent on hydropower, Zambia is on a path towards energy diversification to light up the land. With its strategic location and an investment-focused government, Zambia is transforming its power infrastructure to become the interregional electricity hub by 2025.
Bordered by eight countries, Zambia has fortuitous position of being a land-linked nation. Blessed by its sinuous rivers, hydropower has been Zambia’s energy source of choice. Previously accounting for 97% of the country’s energy, Zambia is now focused on diversifying and increasing its energy supply, not only to guarantee nationwide power security, but also to achieve its objective of becoming the biggest exporter in the Southern African region.
“Ideally, we want to be the net exporter of electricity because as a land-linked country, it’s easy for us to import and export electricity,” states Hon. Matthew Nkhuwa, Minister of Energy. “So we want to build interconnectors for our neighboring countries, so in the event that there may be a shortage, power can be tapped from alternative grids. This vision will ultimately benefit us and our neighbors.”
In an effort to create appetite for further investment in the sector, Zambia implemented a tariff that allowed all industry players to recover the cost of doing business while making an attractive return on the investment. As a result, several projects are now underway that will add renewable energy, thermal energy and more hydroelectricity to the grid. One of these is the Maamba thermal plant, which generates 300 megawatts of power and another is the 60% completed Kafue Gorge Lower Hydro-power Station. Scheduled for completion by 2020, the US$2 billion project will contribute 750 megawatts.
In late 2018, the governments of Zambia and Angola signed a US$5 billion deal to construct an oil pipeline that will pass through the two countries. Currently possessing only one pipeline, this new pipeline will see enhanced trade in oil, development of petroleum refinery infrastructure and capacity building for Zambia. “With no access to the sea, this pipeline will reduce pressure on the roads and ultimately reduce the price of fuel,” states Minister Nkhuwa.
Recently, the World Bank approved a credit facility of about US$26.5 million to help Zambia boost its electricity supply especially in rural parts of the country. Just as electricity access is a prerequisite for socio-economic development, so are roads, which connect all sectors together. “Our Link Zambia 8000 programme has refined its priorities towards internationally focused links such as the Mbala-Nakonde road, which is now easing trade near the Tanzanian border,” states Elias Mwape, Director of Road Development Agency (RDA). The same applies for the Kazungula Bridge Project at the Botswana border and the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway to connect the capital with the Copperbelt and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
By 2025, Zambia’s vision is to be the interregional electricity hub for southern Africa. With its access to market and currently scheduled plan of projects for infrastructure and energy, there’s no reason why its vision cannot become reality.