Thursday, January 27, 2022

Botswana’s electricity index at the lowest in 16 years

Courtesy of the ill-fated Morupule B Power Station and all the intrigue around power generation tendering processes, Botswana’s electricity index in the African Development Bank’s is the lowest it has been in 16 years.

In 2000 when “load shedding” was a term known only to electrical engineers, the country’s electricity index stood at 506.381. The AfDB defines this index as “the total electricity production of a given country, including the energy imported from abroad. This includes both private and public energy generated. The indicator is measured in millions of kilowatt-hours produced per hour and per inhabitant.”

Botswana’s 2000 index was one of the highest on the continent. The following year it rose to 532.041 and to date stands as the highest it has been. However, from then on it was downhill with a slight bump in 2005. The Africa Infrastructure Development Index 2016 that the AfDB released last Thursday shows just how bad the power situation has become in Botswana. In 2013, the electricity index was 214.04 placing the country in position 24 on the continent. The figure dropped to 196.68 (putting the country at position 27) in 2014 and dipped further to 110.18 in 2015 putting Botswana at position 34. This year the index is 80.98 and the country is at position 38, way below Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland which have weaker national economies.  

The AIDI, which is compiled by the AfDB is based on four major components: Transport, Electricity, ICT as well as Water & Sanitation. These components are disaggregated into nine indicators that have a direct or indirect impact on productivity and economic growth. West Africa performs is the best performer on the continent in terms of electricity generation.

Interestingly though, power shortage in Botswana is not as severe as it is in some African countries. According to the 2015/2016 edition of the Rand Merchant Bank’s “Where to Invest in Africa” report, loadshedding is much more severe in countries like Congo Brazzaville, Chad, Guinea, Nigeria or Sierra Leone. At the time that the report was compiled, electricity outages in Botswana averaged 10.3 hours a month which paled in comparison to Congo Brazzaville (636.4 hours), Chad (147 hours), Guinea (198.5 hours), Nigeria (262.4 hours) and Sierra Leone (120.6 hours). Congo’s situation meant that a whole month could go by without power supply.

The power supply in Botswana partly accounts for the quality of the country’s infrastructure being placed in a category of ‘Top 5 Deteriorators’. The other four countries are Benin, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. Like Botswana, the quality of overall infrastructure in these countries has declined badly over the past years. For investors this is bad news because poor infrastructure increases the cost of doing business.

“In many cases, we find that our clients are more concerned about the challenges of doing business than growth and market size, and therefore they place greater emphasis on the risks associated with the different operating environments Africa offers,” the RMB report says. 

On Friday evening beginning at 7 p.m., parts of Gaborone were plunged into darkness, badly affecting Sunday Standard’s production work.


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