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What’s on the horizon for West Africa? obtain acquisition finance over project finance. It can be argued that lenders and project sponsors are closer to the cash than project development that takes much longer. The West African regional power industry is facing many challenges from insufficient domestic gas supply, ageing infrastructure, low revenue collection to a skills gap in the workforce. It has been said that “doubters don’t overcome challenges, but innovators and entrepreneurs find lucrative opportunities and solutions”. Consequently, there are no shortages of companies, organisations and individuals working on amending financial frameworks, building IPPs, finding off-grid solutions and working to bridge the skills gap. I n the region, whilst Nigeria is the largest power market in terms of scale and size, there are interesting opportunities and best practices being implemented by its neighbours. For example, the West African Power Pool (WAPP) is driving a project to develop a 1,300 km (807 mile) interconnection line across Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. A consortium of development agencies, including the World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank and German Export Bank, have agreed to provide €329 million (US$374.43 million) over 25 years for the project. This infrastructure will have the capacity to enhance power trading on a regional level. Metering, billing and finance To fund the infrastructure investments required throughout the power value chain, metering rollouts and billing technology will continue to be key areas amongst the distribution companies and utilities. However, the low rate of revenue collection and high rate of system losses 26 is a key challenge. Alexander Osei, the General Manager for management information systems at the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), commented on the rollout of a Commercial Managing System (CSM), which unlike the existing Customer Billing and Information System (CBIS) is customer oriented software that makes almost all activities on-line. This includes, but is not limited to, new service connection (contracting) and customer payments. CMS also facilitates automatic monitoring processes, such as debt recovery. The CMS will increase the customer care service channel and improve customer time of response. Furthermore, Dr Ransome Owan, the Group Managing Director at Aiteo Power Generation and Distribution Company, stated at last year’s West African Power Industry Convention (WAPIC) that the African lending banks need to develop new and innovative tools to bring liquidity to the sector. According to Owan “it takes far too long to reach financial close on power projects”. He also questioned whether it should be made easier to Success lies on the continent Well-known global business leader and Chairman of Heirs Holdings Tony Elumelu has termed his economic philosophy as ‘Africapitalism’, which he says places more weight on long- term investments in key sectors that drive growth. He explains: “My personal experience also suggests that sustained economic prosperity must be inclusive and must create social wealth. Africapitalism is my attempt to advocate and promote what has worked for me. We as Africans are uniquely qualified to take the lead and develop Africa. I think we need to be more self-confident in order to create the sort of future our children deserve. All the ingredients for success are here in Africa and investing for the long term in key sectors, our people, and processes, will help to solve our problems and retain wealth within the continent.” Clean power generation is on stakeholders’ lips, such as in Senegal where an industrial-scale project wind farm is being planned, which will be the largest of its kind in West Africa. Yet the urgency and priority still lies with traditional fuel technologies; gas is still king. At the annual WAPIC gathering last year, Segun Adaju, Chief of Party for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project at Winrock International, called upon potential stakeholders to take advantage of the vast opportunities in the sector. According to Adaju “the opportunity waiting to be tapped is far and above that realised under the telecommunications boom in Nigeria”. It is at the 12 th annual WAPIC in November in Lagos that the meeting of industry experts will continue these conversations in mapping out the West Africa energy landscape. ESI ESI AFRICA ISSUE 3 2015