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Tribute to Dr Lawrence Musaba – SADC energy sector icon

by Kizito Sikuka - SANF 16 no 6
A huge blackout engulfed southern Africa following the death of Dr. Lawrence Musaba – one of the leading energy experts who was instrumental in establishing a regional energy market that allows countries in SADC to share surplus power to address their energy challenges.

 Dr Musaba died on 14 March in Harare, Zimbabwe, according to a notice by the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) where he was the Coordination Centre Manager.

“It is with regret that I announce the passing away of Dr Lawrence Musaba today (14 March),” SAPP Chief Engineer, Alison Chikova said in the notice to members of the SADC Energy Thematic Group (ETG).

The SADC ETG is a regional platform made up of the SADC Secretariat, its energy related subsidiary organisations and partners, as well as International Cooperating Partners (ICPs) to discuss energy developments in southern Africa.

Fellow ETG members expressed shock at the news, saying the death of Dr Musaba has not only robbed the ETG of a dedicated member, but also deprived southern Africa of a courageous campaigner who always believed that deeper cooperation among SADC countries will enable the region to address its energy challenges.

“It is with great sadness that we have to learn about the passing away of Dr. Lawrence Musaba. He was a cherished and well-respected member not only of this group but of the southern African energy community as a whole,” Deputy Head of Mission at the Austrian Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa Matthias Radosztics, who chairs the ETG, said on behalf of the coordinating group of cooperating partners within the SADC Energy Sector.

The Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which is tasked with raising regional awareness among stakeholders in southern Africa about key energy issues in the region, said Musaba was a respected figure in the SADC energy sector.

“SARDC is deeply saddened by the untimely passing of Dr Lawrence Musaba,” SARDC executive director Munetsi Madakufamba said.

“Personally, I had the pleasure of engaging with him in the SADC energy sector for more than a decade. I always found his level of professionalism, deep knowledge of issues, dedication to duty and personal warmth quite unparalleled. His collective approach and contribution to the energy community in the SADC region and Africa as a whole is truly immeasurable.”

“We have indeed lost a great friend, colleague and a colossal figure in the region and beyond. Our thoughts are with his family and with our dear colleagues at the SAPP Secretariat during these difficult times.”

Dr Musaba was a respected and results-oriented energy expert in southern Africa. He believed that the region had the capacity to resolve its energy crisis through working together.

One of his biggest achievements and contribution towards energy development in SADC was the establishment of the regional competitive electricity trading market, commonly known as the Day Ahead Market (DAM), which allows SADC countries to easily sell and buy surplus electricity to meet local shortfalls.

Launched in December 2009, the DAM is in line with the SADC Protocol on Energy that calls for “cooperation in the development of energy and energy pooling to ensure security and reliability of energy supply and the minimization of costs.”

The regional power pool services 12 SADC countries, and more than US$3 million worth of power has already been traded on DAM.

All power utilities in mainland SADC, with the exception of Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania, are interconnected to the main regional grid through SAPP.

The competitive trading market has allowed SADC countries to address some of the crippling power shortages that were first detected as early as 1999.

For example, power traded on the market has minimized load shedding, by offering some flexibility for countries to be able to switch off some of their power generation stations to carry out maintenance work without cutting off power for its consumers since they can buy surplus power from other regional countries.

The advantages of belonging to such a pool has seen the three SADC countries – Angola, Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania – that are currently outside DAM making efforts to be interconnected to the power pool.

In addition to this, Dr Musaba played a critical role in the implementation of various energy projects in the region.

In his first 10 years as SAPP Coordination Centre Manager, more than 12,000 megawatts (MW) of power were installed.

The target for SAPP is to commission a massive 23,580MW by 2019, a situation that will see the region become self-sufficient.

Despite his huge contribution to the SADC energy sector, Dr Musaba always remained a humble man and not even the turbulent energy sector changed his character.

In one of his speech soon after being bestowed with the 2015 African Utility Lifetime Achievement Award, he instead took time to pay tribute to those nominated alongside him, describing them as noble winners.

“This is the highest honour I have received in my life. I feel honoured and humbled…Looking at the individuals I was nominated alongside, I never thought I will win the award. Credit to all the nominees who deserve to be winners in their own right,” he said.

Dr Musaba was a holder of numerous degrees including Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) degree from the University of Zambia with distinction, a Master of Science (MSc) Power Engineering Degree and PhD (Electrical Engineering) in 1996, both from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) in England.

Prior to his appointment as the SAPP Coordination Centre Manager in February 2002, he was the SAPP Deputy Coordination Centre Manager since June 2000.

Dr Musaba held a number of high profile positions in illustrious career including Senior Electrical Engineer at the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines, Assistant Project Development Manager at the Midlands Power International in Birmingham, and Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Zambia,

His contribution to the development of the energy sector as well as the socio-economic growth of the southern African region will forever be cherished.

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