|Energy as a Tool for Sustainable Development for African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (EC - UNDP, 1999, 89 p.)|
|CHAPTER 2: THE SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA REGION|
All African countries suffer from weak energy institutions and lack of capacity or policy analysis in support of informed decision-making. They also face enormous challenges in creating appropriate policy, legal, fiscal, and administrative frameworks to mobilise and unlock the potential of their energy sectors to contribute to development. Unless this problem is tackled systematically there will be little chance of implementing sustainable energy policies and programmes in Africa.
Development agencies appreciate this issue and have done much to help build capacities in energy as in other sectors. But declining aid budgets often mean that they can now do less to help than they might wish and certainly much less than is required. Their standard response of short-term, fly-in consultancy support has not, and is not going to, resolve this problem. Neither will a model based on institutionalised dependence on northern educational and training capacity.
"Many longer term opportunities for technical leapfrogging and cutting costs by accelerating progress down the learning curve could be realised if technical standards were developed and implemented soon."
Instead, international aid agencies need to increase and sustain their commitment to strengthening energy programmes in national and regional educational and training institutions. Nevertheless, support will continue to be needed for the medium-term, to resolve acute shortages in trained, skilled, and experienced staff at three different levels, including:
· regional institutions, where pooling skills, experiences, and resources can be economically efficient and highly effective, especially for weaker countries;
· national energy institutions and other public bodies; and
· provincial, district, and local levels where energy interventions should be linked to initiatives in health care, education, agriculture, industry, and business promotion in order to maximise development benefits. Effective support for building capacity at this level is most appropriately and sustainably provided by local development-oriented institutions working closely with government, energy providers, and communities to explore, demonstrate, communicate, and replicate new delivery mechanisms.
At the national level, one of the key problems is the instability and unreliability of the policy and institutional environment. One attractive solution to this problem is to provide multi-year support in the form of independent energy analysis and capacity building/training centres that support local governments and institutions. With sustained support a reliable, long-term partnership of trust can be built between cooperation agencies, a capable local organisation committed to the same objectives, and government. The local organisation invests in building capacity internally and also in the wider energy sector; is positioned to understand the vagaries of the political environment; can build local relationships; and can provide assistance to cooperation agencies and government at appropriate moments. It can also become a sound repository of knowledge and expertise, which greatly increases the chances of sustained progress in the sector. Establishing and/or maintaining or supporting such centres is also a relatively cheap option.
"International aid agencies need to increase and sustain their commitment to strengthening energy programmes in national and regional educational and training institutions."
This model is based on the experience of a few energy policy and training centres that were established in Africa during the 1990s. Several useful lessons have been learned from these local centres:
· Joint projects are effective ways to develop capacity. Policy-makers, teamed with local policy analysts/trainers, jointly developing policy and implementation programmes, can build local capacity and confidence.
· Regular interactions between policy-makers and policy analysts/trainers through training/workshop visits to the local institution, or through analysts/trainers working with policy-makers, help to maintain and enhance this capacity.
· Effective local institutions require strong political and intellectual leadership, but also, crucially, professional colleagues able to respond to the challenges and needs by providing expert assistance and training. The institutions must demonstrate that they can build internal capacity before they attempt to build capacity in government or elsewhere. Partly for this reason they need support from leading international groups through exchange visits and sabbaticals (both ways), workshops, and, importantly, through working jointly on projects.
· These institutions should demonstrate their relevance by earning a significant proportion of their income from local contracts. Some baseline support is necessary to sustain capacity building and training activities, however, and to sustain the centres as repositories of relevant knowledge, skills, and experience in periods of political and institutional uncertainty or instability.
· It is difficult to start new, good, locally based institutions from scratch. Capacity development should piggyback on the best existing institutions.
An alternative model is to support loose networks of local expertise and provide them with a formal channel for advising and interacting with government. Two successful approaches along these lines have been established in Ghana (see Box 12).
Box 12. Building Effective Energy Policy Institutions in Ghana
In 1983 Ghana established a National Energy Board (NEB) to attract high calibre technical staff and strengthen the institutional framework for energy planning. The NEB was responsible for giving independent energy policy advice to the government and for monitoring the public agencies which regulated and managed energy development and utilisation. By 1991, when the NEB was dissolved, it had become a dynamic national agency for energy planning and policy analysis. One of its great strengths was its independent funding (derived from a tax on petroleum products: see Box 9). This freed it from government budget uncertainties and enabled it to pay enough to attract high calibre staff. Two new institutions, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission and the National Energy Commission, have replaced the NEB but operate on similar principles.
Ghana has also established several NGOs, often with governmental support, to facilitate closer interactions between government officials, academia, and entrepreneurs. These include the Energy Research Group and the Solar Energy Society of Ghana, established in 1987 and 1993 respectively. Membership of both organisations includes energy researchers, policy-makers, and managerial staff from industry, commerce, and the electric power utilities. Their main benefit is the successful linking of academia, government, and the private sectors in addressing key issues of energy policy as well as business development.