The African Development Bank (AfDB) has congratulated Uganda’s power regulator-Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) for excellent performance that has enabled it scoop the Electricity Regulatory Index accolade since 2018 when the assessments started.
According to AfDB country representative Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, ERA has consistently been ranked the number one among regulators in over 40 African countries assessed by AfDB’s Electricity Regulatory Index (ERI) for the past five years.
“Let me congratulate ERA for this achievement and urge them not to rest on their oars but to continue that trajectory” he said at the launch of the digitilization initiative of the ERA at its head offices in Kampala.
Ngafuan said this initiative worth USD595350 is a joint technical assistance to ERA and the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) of Tanzania. It is meant to establish a database management system to digitilize the regulatory activities of the two regulatory authorities.
The initiative according to Ngafuan is being implemented with a grant funding from AfDB through it’s hosted Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation Trust Fund.
He said the initiative will further enhance the transparency and stakeholder participation in the regulatory processes and activities of ERA as data become readily accessible.
“ERA will be to monitor, collect, analyse and disseminate power sector regulatory data and information effectively, timely and proactively” he said, adding that the launch is timely as the world moves into smart technologies and systems across the electricity value chain for efficiency and integrity of processes.
He said such smart technological changes have necessitated the need for regulators to digitilize their activities to keep abreast with these changing trends.
Ngafuan said the digitilization initiative underscores the bank’s efforts to support regional member countries to improve the quality and effectiveness of energy regulation using bespoke solutions to address identified regulatory bottlenecks and create enabling environment that can attract private investment into the energy sector.
“It also aligns with the bank’s initiatives on ensuring availability and accessibility of energy data to investors and stakeholders to better engage the sector. The bank is currently implementing similar digitalization projects in many other countries such as Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria and Liberia in addition to deploying similar digital platforms at regional regulatory entities in COMESA, ECOWAS, SADC and ECCAS as part of the regional electricity regulatory harmonization initiative across these regions” he said adding that these regional initiatives aim to facilitate regional electricity trade and exchanges as envisaged by the African Single Electricity Market initiative of the African Union.
He said AfDB is committed to continuing supporting soft infrastructure initiatives to complement the hard infrastructure in the energy sector such as power plants and transmission lines towards the attainment of universal access to electricity in Africa as per the New Deal on Energy for Africa program.
“I wish to commend ERA for conceiving such an idea and thank the project team that has worked with the bank to develop it up to the stage of implementation. I call upon all stakeholders in Uganda to support this initiative for speedy and effective implementation to achieve it’s intended objectives” he said.
Meanwhile, ERA director for corporate and consumer affairs Julius Wandera, said the initiative will play a great role in ensuring transparency and efficiency especially when it comes to handling consumer complaints among other issues.
“The system being developed means that when you lodge a complaint, it’s going to be simultenously seen; the regulator sees, utility sees, you also see on how your complaint is being managed and handled in real time. There’s no opportunity for a complaint falling off. We (therefore) find this as a very big plus” he said.
Wandera noted that for the majority of electricity consumers, their main challenge is having their complaints handled.
“They think that when you lodge a complaint, you will not get a response or you will not even get through. You try to call, the phones are busy, you try online and no body shows up. Now with the development of this digital management system, all that is going to be behind us. Then, there are other things like accessing reports from Utilities, like Umeme, UETCL, UEDCL, UEGCL etc, all that is now going to be eased. When the regulator asks for a report all, responsibe people are able to see that. In that way, there’s nothing that I sent a report but you didn’t receive etc, all that is going to be history” he explained.
He said this funding by AfDB committed to this project will support Uganda and Tanzania just like it was done in other countries.
“So, it’s not happening only here, it has happened elsewhere. It has happened in Ghana and it has eased their regulatory systems and there are no hiccups. So we’re picking a leaf from the Ghanians and how they did it (so as) to register the same success here” he said.
He said as ERA, they take transparency as one of our core values and therefore, this initiative will even strengthen the authority further in this area of transparency.
“We’re proud as Uganda to have excelled in the ERI. We now want to widen the gap between us and those who follow us, so that they don’t even have a chance to catch up with us” he said.