But We Have the Resources [opinion]

THE NORMALITY is that children do not reprimand adults, no matter the circumstances. I, however, cannot help it. So, please allow me to differ with the Namibian President, Hifikepunye Pohamba.

During his recent visit to the Karas region, the President remarked, “we don’t have our own resources to produce electricity. Yes, we have Ruacana, but it cannot supply even half of the country’s (electricity consumption) needs”, as reported in The Namibian of the 19th March 2014 in an article titled “Power crisis worries Pohamba”.

Electricity can be generated from various sources. The most common and conventional ones being coal, hydro, gas, solar and the least preferred for either being expensive, understudied or for many other reasons are biomass, uranium oxide and wind power, to mention just a few. There are many other viable ways that can be considered and have been implemented over the world.

There are firmly viable options that we can embark on from the Namibian point of view.

Firstly, the Kudu gas project: if the specifications of the electricity generation capacity of this project are anything to go by, this will indeed be a great achievement. We have been talking about this project for years mind you it was discovered even before independence, so it is high time.

There have been speculations for considerations of nuclear power generation to supplement our crippling supply. Namibia is the fifth-ranked uranium producer in the world, if not the fourth. According to the Namibia Chambers of Mines’ annual report of 2012, about 72 348 tonnes or more of uranium oxide were produced since 1992. I have no doubt the majority of the proceeds from sales of this product goes to foreign investors and the buyers most definitely getting more value from the product. The state receives a small portion from taxes, royalties and other services we render to foreign mining companies in exchange for our minerals (uranium in this case) and resulting in profits from our labour.

As mentioned earlier, uranium can be converted to value added products, one of which is the generation of electricity. About one kilogram of natural uranium enables the generation of about 45,000 kWh of electricity. Hypothetically speaking, if half of the uranium (36 174 tonnes) mined from 1992 up to 2012 were to be used for electricity, Namibia would have generated about 1.4 billion kWh of electricity. Now that is huge amount of electricity enough to supply the entire Namibia a couple of times over. These resources may not be available in the next century and we will not be there to answer our grandchildren on the scarcity of these minerals in the absence of no substantial developments from its proceeds. This is not to suggest that we engage in nuclear power for the desperation of electricity because there is a lot to consider. But if feasibility studies suggest that it is safe, reliable and worth investing in, I give it a nod.

However, if we cannot make use of this raw material as it is then we must find ways on how it will benefit us. Our uranium is worth more than a few bursaries or community development projects. It should be that simple, you have the resources and you are in dire need for electricity. For instance, a few kilograms in exchange for solar panels or some technical experts to study, share knowledge with our Namibian counterparts and plan on how to expand our local plants, this is trade right?

I commend the active approach the government has taken on solar energy, we must embrace this technology. We have the sun, it is another resource.

Last but not least, we have the money. It is a resource and it doesn’t need to be natural. Yes, our government has money. There is N$700 million budgeted for a “new” parliament building, N$600 million available for a “new” PM’s office and not to mention the GIPF’s N$660 millions, ODC’s N$100 million (that still have to be recovered with interest) and many other corruptly wasted resources benefiting only a few well-to-do individuals: that should be worth billions of electrification.

If there is so much to spend and waste when we have pressing and “crises” listed items, which goes without saying, poverty, malnutrition (I expected women parliamentarians and the rest of our mothers to protest for nutritional programmes instead of buildings), drought and the list goes on: can one then surmise that there is a hidden budget for these items?

Otherwise I am convinced we have the resources.

*Moses Pius is a MEng Candidate at Stellenbosch University.

Source : The Namibian