OBG talks to Olugbenga Ashiru, Former Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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 Olugbenga Ashiru, Former Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs

Interview: Olugbenga Ashiru

What can be done to increase the effectiveness of the West African Power Pool?

OLUGBENGA ASHIRU: There is no doubt that given the region’s natural resource endowments, there are ample opportunities for not only the sharing of power networks and cross-border electricity transmission, but also the production of energy owing to the advantage of scale. It is for these considerations that we are witnessing increased cooperation among the national electricity companies in West Africa under the auspices of the West Africa Power Pool.

The objective of this sub-regional platform is the establishment of a functional and reliable power grid for the region and a common market for electricity. An example in this regard is the case of the Electricity Authority of Benin and the former Nigerian Electricity Power Authority (NEPA), which executed a power interconnectivity project jointly financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and ECOWAS. The project, which was concluded in 2007, connected Benin’s power grid to that of NEPA’s in Nigeria, thus lighting up vast areas of rural communities that were previously in darkness.

In the same vein, Togo and Benin have alternative sources of power supply available to meet any shortfall in their electricity imports from Ghana and Côte d’lvoire. To enhance the effectiveness of the West African Power Pool, the World Bank, AfDB and NEPA should each provide credit facilities at reasonable rates to finance power projects across the subregion, in addition to making other national and bilateral investments in the sector.

Furthermore, public-private partnerships should be encouraged to boost the power sector. The present initiatives by ECOWAS to grant finance for the expansion of power supply in Sierra Leone, Gambia and Mali point to the seriousness of the sub-region’s dedication to increasing power supply across the region, which is key to effective integration, as well as employment and wealth creation in West Africa.

Where do you see opportunities for increased bilateral investment with Ghana?

ASHIRU: In the Nigerian experience in the West African sub-region, there is no doubt that great opportunities exist for increased bilateral investment in the region, particularly with Ghana. Nigeria and Ghana are endowed with natural resources, each having some advantages that can be harnessed through bilateral investments for the overall development of both countries. As Ghana has ventures in cocoa production, related industries would be a viable investment area worthy of our consideration as we seek to revive our cocoa production. Furthermore, due to Nigeria’s decade-long experience in the energy sector, the nascent oil and gas industry in Ghana presents a great opportunity for Nigeria’s outwards investment in the country. Thanks to the regional and global challenges in the quest for capital inflows, and the desire to grow economies, it has become necessary to make reforms in some vital sectors of the economy. Ghana has a lot to learn from Nigeria’s experience with reforms, especially in the oil and gas, agriculture and power sectors. The Nigerian government, in its desire to grow the national economy and that of the sub-region, has put a premium on reforms to the agriculture and agro-allied, aviation, banking, communication, transport and power industries. The successes that have been recorded over the last few years in Nigeria demonstrate the current degree of foreign direct investment inflow into the economy, particularly in the rail transport and information and communications technologies sectors. To pave the way for increased cross-border capital flow, Nigeria has continued to encourage and facilitate the successful implementation of a number of established regional economic agreements, particularly the ECOWAS Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment, as well as the Trans-West African Coastal Highway.

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