News of the signing of the agreement ushering in the disbursement of funds to kick start the construction of the Nachtigal Hydroelectric Dam by the end of December this year was certainly received with thunderous applause by many a Cameroonian. Anyone who doubts this is advised to ask any inhabitant in any of the localities in the country who has been experiencing frequent power outages, sometimes lasting as long as weeks.
Households have complained of food getting perish in refrigerators, kids not being able to study after school and the level of criminality and aggression in the streets increasing exponentially. These are just a few cases at least at the level of households, to indicate the gravity of low or intermittent power supply.
The situation is even more precarious when industrial activities are forced to grind to a halt. Many countries aspiring for development like Cameroon are quite aware of this and in comparative terms, are working towards adopting energy supply systems that are cheaper, cleaner and more efficient.
From every indication, one of such is the hydroelectric power supply system. President Paul Biya in his inaugural speech last November, 06, underscored the importance of power supply in the following words; " industry and agriculture require stable and sufficient power supply. We have been making significant efforts in this sector for some time now. The hydropower dams and plants that we have constructed should enable us, sooner or later, to fully meet the demands of our economy and our population’s energy needs." The launching of construction work on the Nachtigal Hydroelectric Dam is surely a logical follow up of this engagement.
The dam, according to the project fact file, represents the key part of the effort to reduce electricity costs and promote its sustainability. Cameroon, it should be recalled, has negotiated an irreversible bend towards industrialization. But for the dream to be realized, there is need for sufficient energy which the country doesn’t have at moment. Statistics show that installed electricity capacity is in the neighbourhood of 1,299 megawatts with demand almost doubling production. Target is to produce about 3,000 MW by 2020.
Nachtigal will be supplying additional 420 MW. The project equally includes Roller Compacted Concrete dams, a headrace channel, a power plant with seven generating units, a generation substation and a transmission line. The project Cameroon considers as one of its major strategic is developed by the Nachtigal Hydro Power Company (NHPC) whose shareholders are the Republic of Cameroon, Electricité de France (EDF) and International Finance Corporation (IFC).
The focus on developing many more energy supply sources has long been in the political programme of President Biya even though the process for diverse reasons, have been moving at snail pace. However, public opinion holds that the past two decades have agreeably witnessed a renewed impetus. Energy supply has featured so prominently on many speeches of the President. Two years ago, he said with so much insistence, that "the major challenge for the country will be to create conditions conducive to real industrialisation.
Emergence is inconceivable without a viable industrial sector. But for real industrialisation to be reality, favourable conditions must be put in place. One of such conditions; in fact, an indispensable one, is energy that must be produced in quantity and quality." The ambition seems to be higher than just remaining within the precincts of hydroelectric sources.
"We will not stop at that. We will continue to exploit all the available sites and rivers in order to transform Cameroon into a major electricity producer on our continent. We will also pay attention to rural areas by progressively providing them with solar energy plants", he said. This zeal must as a matter of fact, be made to be an affair of all stakeholders so that by 2023, the story about electricity supply in Cameroon will be told differently.