Nigeria on Thursday launched a drive to attract foreign investors in its bid to boost electricity production.
President Goodluck Jonathan led the campaign at a conference with potential international power investors in the country of 150 million plagued by daily outages blamed on corruption and mismanagement.
Less than two months ago he laid out plans to privatise most of the power sector in the world’s eighth largest oil exporter.
“I believe that Nigeria is a power investors’ haven,” Jonathan said.
The two-day meeting has attracted global energy engineering giants including Switzerland’s ABB, Britain’s Rolls-Royce Group and Germany’s MAN Diesel and Turbo.
“We have invited you across the world because we fully realise that transforming Nigeria’s power sector is the next major enterprise in our journey to advance human progress in this part of the world,” Jonathan said.
Jonathan’s government plans to privatise electricity generation and distribution in the country as well as boost natural gas availability to fire new plants.
The government would continue to own the national grid, though it would be privately managed.
In August Jonathan pledged a new 3.5-billion-dollar electricity grid to be built in four years while Nigeria’s Central Bank has set up a two billion dollar fund to assist private investments in the power and aviation sectors.
US and South African financiers also attended the Abuja meeting.
Nigeria’s inadequate power production has been hit by theft and losses during transmission while rebel attacks on oil pipelines affect gas supplies to electricity plants.
Those who can afford it run their businesses and homes on diesel-powered generators while most Nigerians go for days, even weeks, without power.
“We spend about 13 billion dollars every year providing power from diesel generators when we require only about 10 billion dollars per year in investment over the next few years to develop our generation, distribution and transmission capacities,” Jonathan said.
He said less than half of Nigerians have some access to electricity.
Last year, Nigeria produced an average of 3,700 megawatts. South Africa, another continental powerhouse, produces more than 43,000 megawatts of electricity for a population a third the size of Nigeria.