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African countries to recognize importance of hydropower project cooperation

         Date: 2012-03-21

           Tag: African, African project cooperation

Summary: The report said African governments have begun to recognise the importance of cooperative hydropower projects.

Africa currently generates just one third of its electricity from hydropower, but could learn from cooperation and training programmes between India and some Western countries, according to Ulcay Unver, coordinator of the UN World Water Assessment Programme, which produced its fourth edition of the World Water Development Report.

The report said  African governments have begun to recognise the importance of cooperative hydropower projects.

Several strong examples have begun to emerge, including the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and the West African Power Pool. These bring together groups of national electricity companies under the authority of the Southern African Development Community and the Economic Community of West African States respectively.

He supported the UN's call to develop hydropower in Africa, but warned that the financial challenges of finding the money for dam and hydropower plants were significant.

Nonetheless, large projects are underway, including a collaboration between India's Tata Power company and the South African mining group Exxaro for renewable energy projects - including hydropower - in Botswana and South Africa.

Unver told SciDev.Net that technology projects are "essential drivers" of African development, but technology alone is not enough. "You may have the best technology but you have to be able to use and maintain it," he said.

Some scientists have that warned the global push to develop hydropower carries certain risks, especially in developing countries.

Alain Vidal, director of the Challenge Programme on Water and Food - part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research - told SciDev.Net the best approach would be one that enabled stakeholders in the energy, food and water sectors to work together.

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