The New Times Kigali
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Member states of the Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have been urged to enhance power generation capacity to support industrial growth and increase access by rural areas.

Dr Kipyego Cheluget, the COMESA assistant secretary general, said access to power for industrial and commercial use is a key driver of growth and job-creation.

Speaking in statement ahead of the third edition of the iPAD Rwanda Energy Infrastructure Forum in Kigali, Cheluget said COMESA will fast-track implementation of key electricity generation and interconnection projects as part of efforts to support this goal. He identified some of the projects that will be fast-tracked as the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya power interconnector, and the Uganda-Rwanda, Rwanda-Burundi power interconnector projects.

The iPAD Rwanda forum, scheduled for November 1-2 in Kigali, will attract sector investors, project developers, banks, construction and planning firms, as well as government representatives, and technology providers from Rwanda, the EAC bloc, and from the rest of the world, according to the statement from the organisers. The forum seeks to attract key investors and technology providers that can support power industry and associated infrastructure. It gives Rwanda an opportunity to share its best practices; discuss challenges, ideas and strategies that can help deepen the knowledge pool to ensure sustainable development of the sector, according to the October 17 release.

Cheluget, who will deliver a paper on « Rwanda’s role in East Africa: Pinpointing the opportunities for Rwanda », said the region needs to boost its power generation capacity to ease access to electricity, especially for hard-to-reach areas. « Regional countries also need to tap into opportunities in the renewable energy sector to accelerate the achievement of targets on universal access to electricity, as well as ensure sustainable development in the bloc, » he said.

The Minister for Infrastructure, James Musoni, is expected to open the meeting, that is supported by power utility Rwanda Energy Group (REG), the Infrastructure Ministry, and Rwandan Development Board. Reiterating government’s efforts to increase access to power, Musoni said the 80MW peat-fired power plant project, that is being developed in the country, will be the largest in Africa.

Rwanda targets to extend electricity to over 70 per cent of the population in the medium-term (by 2018). Commenting on the forum, Great Lakes Energy Rwanda’s Sam Dargan said the country is fast becoming a pioneer in solar technology in sub-Saharan Africa, adding that all the major solar companies operating in Rwanda have invested heavily in ICT « within their products and systems, and continue to invest and build ».

« Currently, most of this development is done abroad. As our labour market produces more and better ICT specialists, there may be opportunity to bring some of the research and development into Rwanda in the coming years, » he said.

Julien Jomaux, from BTC Rwanda, observed that the gas power plant on Lake Kivu is a perfect example of how the local energy sector is positioning itself as a centre for knowledge and innovation.

iPAD Rwanda is organised by Cape Town-based Spintelligent, a leading trade exhibition and conference organiser, and the African office of Clarion Events, based in the UK.

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