President Edgar Lungu says he won’t mind being fired in 2021 over his “suicide political decision” to sharply increase electricity tariffs, because he will leave people benefiting.

The President was speaking morning at the Association of Power Utilities in Africa (APUA) 19th Congress at Avani Hotel in Livingstone.

“Allow me to share our experience in Zambia which our able Zesco director alluded to with regards to the impact of climate change. Zambia is just emerging from a very serious power shortage during the 2014-2015 drought, which affected not only our country, but the entire Southern African region. The power shortage was occasioned by our inability over the years to attract new investments in the electricity generation,” President Lungu said.

“I am happy to say that I took a political suicide decision to increase electricity tariffs because I can’t continue to preside over a poverty stricken nation when we can make economic growth. If it means being fired in 2021 I will go, but I will point what I would have achieved. It is not easy but the interest of the majority of Zambians are more important than my being in State House.”

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He said government had made great strides in reducing the energy deficit.

“Zambia’s electricity deficit was over 1,000mw at the beginning, but was reduced to about 400mw due to the measures which government put in place. This is what I would like to be remembered by. We are now pursuing an ambitious programme to attract investment in the energy sector, especially from renewable resources such as solar, wind and waste energy projects. Besides, we have resolved to pursue the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes; not only for use in the domestic economy, but for export to neighbouring countries. Zambia will become a middle income country by 2030 and energy demand levels will increase to levels where, if we do nothing now, the situation will be unsustainable,” he said.

The President outlined the regional transmission interconnector projects which Zambia was pursuing.

“In order to strengthen our interconnection with our neighbouring countries and to promote shared regional resource in energy, we are developing the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya transmission Interconnector, the Zambia-Zimbabwe-Namibia Transmission Interconnector, Zambia-Congo DR Transmission Interconnector, we have the Zambia-Mozambique transmission Interconnector, we also have the Zambia-Malawi transmission Interconnector. We are also ongoing with the Batoka 2,400mw boundary hydro power project with Zimbabwe which is the elephant in the room so to say. We also have the Luapula River 1,200mw transboundary hydro power project with Congo DR,” President Lungu said.

And the Head of State said he was reserving his talking energy for 2021 when he would be seeking political power again.

“Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen, I took a vow and the Master of Ceremonies is my witness, that I will not talk too much because it’s time to work. I will talk too much in 2021 when we begin looking for political power again,” said President Lungu leaving delegates laughing.

And Energy Minister David Mabumba regretted that only 4 per cent of Zambia’s rural population was connected to electricity. He however said his ministry was targeting 51 per cent of Zambia’s rural areas by 2030.

He added that Zambia was expecting US$150 million for renewable power generation from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and 81 million Euros from Germany.