This brief examines the barriers to greater regional cooperation on energy and sets out how they might be overcome.

The barriers include limited investment in infrastructure, the dominance of South Africa and South African coal in the regional energy mix, and the consequences of energy crises.

Like countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as a group, individual states are struggling to provide adequate supplies of new electric power at scale to meet accelerating demand, and without the pooling of resources and power generating capacity that might help address this challenge.

The authors suggest that energy crisis is a chicken-and-egg problem, in that regional cooperation and interconnection are hampered by the very condition that they could help resolve – energy crisis.

Paradoxically, energy crises press states to look inward and focus on policy levers that appear easy to reach. Yet it is regional cooperation that offers greater promise, because a transboundary approach to economic development, regional integration and power sector development could offer economies of scale, resource availability and generating capacity beyond what can be achieved within a single nation-state.

The authors set out how regional cooperation could be stimulated, pointing in particular to action within the context of SADC and the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

This brief is based on research undertaken for the project Powering Africa: Unlocking Opportunities for Energy and Water Development in Southern Africa, funded by Sida.

Read the in-depth companion report Powering Africa.