This bulletin is the first of a three-part series that highlights discussions from the TUED South Regional Policy Meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, that took place May 16-18, 2023.
Titled The Challenge of Energy Transition in sub-Saharan Africa: Towards a Public Pathway Approach, the 50-person meeting brought together leaders from 12 trade union bodies from the region as well as two Global Union Federations and four allied research organisations. ITUC Africa was also represented. You can access the full report here.
The main objective of the meeting was to lay the foundations of a long-term political agenda and strategy led by SSA trade unions dedicated to developing public pathway policy alternatives to energy poverty and capacity scarcity. Efforts to reclaim energy systems to public ownership are already visible in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and elsewhere.
Energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is currently rising. Approximately 77 per cent of the world’s people currently without access to electricity —roughly 568 million —live in SSA. Across the region, there is a shortage of generation capacity, and transmission and distribution systems are undeveloped or incomplete.
At the launch of TUED South in Nairobi in October 2022, participants agreed that the primary cause of energy poverty in SSA flowed from World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs of the 1990s. In 1993 the Bank announced it would no longer fund public electrification programs because extending access made public utilities financially unviable. Governments were told that they needed to pass laws to open up the electricity sector to private companies, so-called “independent power producers'' (IPPs)
The same policies are being pursued today by way of Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) and similar initiatives, all of which involve privatisation and liberalisation to create an “enabling environment” for private investors.
The evidence provided in the TUED South Framing Document discussed in Nairobi is clear: the private sector is not investing in solutions to energy poverty, and those same policies starve public energy companies of the capital needed to address the lack of capacity.
Participants discussed a proposal to launch a “Reclaim and Restore” initiative aimed at the World Bank and other multilateral bodies. Participants also discussed ways Global South unions and their allies can, in the short term, collectively respond to the “green structural adjustment” privatisation agenda embedded in the JETPs currently being promoted by the rich countries and neoliberal policymakers.
COSATU General Secretary Solly Phetoe opened the three-day meeting with these words: “The answer to Africa’s energy crisis is straightforward: We need a public pathway toward our energy transition” Read the complete transcript of comrade Solly’s intervention here and view the full video recording here.
Video recording of the discussions are below. An official report of the TUED South meeting was sent to the nearly 110 unions participating in the TUED network. Find the full report here.
We’re pleased to welcome Chile’s largest national workers’ centre, CUT Chile, to the TUED network. Today CUT Chile represents over 530 affiliates in both the public and private sectors, totalling more than 750,000 members throughout the country. Read more about the Chilean trade union movement in recent TUED Bulletins 132 and 133.
“CUT Chile decided to join and participate in the TUED network because internationalism is fundamental in the struggle for public ownership and democratic control of energy as a public good. Public control of energy ensures that its production is carried out respecting the environment, expanding its coverage and providing just prices for users,” said Miguel Soto from CUT Chile’s International Relations commission and in charge of CUT Chile’s lithium work.