The timing couldn’t have been more apt, and so was the setting. Ghana chose to make the announcement close to Nigeria’s National Day, October 1 – the day we commemorated the 54th anniversary of independence from then colonial Britain. Ironically, the majority of Nigerians celebrated in “darkness” because they had no access to electricity. And the setting was an international forum – the Africa Global Business and Economic Forum – in Dubai.
There, the Ghanaian President, Mr. John Mahama, announced that his small country planned to export thousands of megawatts of electricity to Nigeria, Ivory Coast and other neighbouring countries that have “power deficit”. He said his government had made huge investments in power generation that would enable Ghana to export excess electricity to Nigeria and others.
“We have given priority to electricity generation in our country”, he told his rapt audience that included Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. The Ghanaian leader spoke in a panel discussion along with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Mulatu Wirtu of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. “We have prioritised energy in such a way that we want to become the hub for power production in West Africa. We want to generate electricity to the point that excess power can be exported to Nigeria, Ivory Coast and other countries that have power deficit.”
To achieve that dream, Mahama said his country had secured export-import financing from China as well as special funds from Abu Dhabi to commence a series of power generation projects, adding that a third hydropower dam was already at an advanced stage.“Where Africa faces some of its challenges exist its biggest opportunities. We are leveraging on public-private sector partnership to build infrastructure. Be it roads, electricity, ports or communication systems; if we create the right environment, investors will come.Creating the right environment that will attract foreign direct investment is the key.”
As if to rob in the irony of small brother helping big brother instead of the other way round, the Ghanaian leader emphasised the need for African governments to strengthen anti-corruption agencies in their countries.“Issues of accountability and transparency are very important. There must be a mechanism to fight corruption. We all have institutions but the major thing is resourcing them to effectively fight corruption and perform effectively,” he said. One could almost visualize the sardonic smile that was playing on Mahama’s lips as he made that exhortation.
Before we shoot down our government for allowing our power deficit to persist, we should admit certain things about Ghana. One the country’s population is no larger than that of Lagos, one of Nigeria’s 36 states. Secondly, not every community or village is linked to the national grid. It means the country can generate enough to meet domestic demand and still have some to export.
However, this said, how many Nigerian states can generate power to meet local need in spite of the huge petrol dollars they get from the federation accounts? Some states’ budgets are bigger than Ghana’s, yet they are unable to provide electricity and other infrastructure for their people. At the national level, last year, power generation managed to hit 4,000 megawatts, for a country that this year arguably overtook South Africa as Africa’s biggest economy. Ironically, our power generation is only one-tenth that of that country. Even that is not stable; presently it is down to slightly above 2,000megawatts.
The problem of Nigeria isn’t one of size or resource scarcity, but visionless leadership underscored by corruption at the highest level. Unless we come to grip with that we should expect to be overtaken by smaller countries in even those areas we once enjoyed a lead like football. Only last week, the
Mo Ibrahim Foundation rated Ghana and Senegal above Nigeria on governance. No surprise, at all.