Stutter and Stop Electricity shortages are hamstringing Zimbabwe’s economic recovery | Picture by: Duane Daws

By: Oscar Nkala
23rd September 2011

The World Bank says Zimbabwe’s mining and agriculture sectors are back on their feet but that the country needs at least $13-billion for electricity generation and power development projects to reduce the effects of the ongoing power shortages.

Addressing a press conference in Harare, World Bank country representative Kundhavi Kadiresen identified the country’s power crisis, which government has predicted will last beyond 2013, as one of the major contributors to the stutter-and-stop pace of economic recov- ery since the installation of the country’s coalition government in February 2009.

“Zimbabwe needs close to $13-billion [for] the energy sector,” she said, adding that its huge external debt, which stood at $8.8-billion at the end of 2010, was hamstringing the economic recovery process as the country cannot access lines of credit because of this debt.

Kadiresan said, while the country had recorded marginal economic growth since 2009, it remained vulnerable to microeconomic shocks and needed financial support to revive the industrial and transport infrastructure that are key to ensuring sustainable economic recovery.

“Many of the manufacturing industries still have very old machinery – outdated machines. Because of these and other factors, it is very hard for Zimbabwe to be competitive,” she said.

The warning from the World Bank representative came as Energy and Power Development Minister Elton Mangoma said the country would experience power shortages beyond 2013.

Mangoma blamed the Zimbabwe- Namibia power deal, in terms of which Zimbabwe exports 150 MW to Namibia to service a US$40-million infrastructural development loan advanced by NamPower to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) in February 2007.

Mangoma said he had already instructed the Zesa board to review the deal. He said serious efforts would be made to reduce load-shedding as the power utility reconnects power that had been diverted to winter wheat farming back to the main grid for domestic and industrial use.

Mangoma said, because of its serious cash-flow problems, the Zimbabwe government had evolved a strategy of long- term power development that emphasised engaging private companies to develop the projects.

“We put out an expression of interest early this year for private companies that wish to partner us in power development. So far, nearly 20 companies have applied and the responses are being analysed. The sucessful bidders will be announced next month,” he said.

The new investors are expected to expand operations at the Kariba hydroelectricity plant and at the Hwange thermal power station. New projects lined up for development include a thermal power plant at the Sengwa coalfields, in Gokwe, and the Batoka Gorge hydroelectric plant, on the Zambezi river. Government is also mulling the revival of the Harare, Bulawayo and Munyati thermal power stations.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu