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AfDB backs controversial Water & Hydrogen Expo

By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU –  The African Development Bank has committed to providing the financial  backing for the upcoming much touted Water and Hydrogen in a Digital Future Conference and Expo this is amid fears that some people are smelling the rat in this initiative.

This is according to the statement issued by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Water and Hydrogen Conference and Expo that is scheduled to take place on October 12 – 13 in Maseru.

“The Minister of Natural Resources, Honourable Mohlomi Moleko MP has welcomed that the African Development Bank (AfDB) – the largest development bank in Africa- will participate in, and sponsor the Metsi ke Bophelo Water and Hydrogen in  a Digital Future Conference and Expo…,” reads the Ministry of Natural  Resources statement.

According to the Ministry, the AfBD has pledged to the tune of 15 000 USD about M285 000 towards the costs of the conference.

In a letter confirming bank’s participation Oswald Mulenga Chanda is quoted saying “the bank believes that the question of what Lesotho can do with its water endowment is an important one, given that, despite this abundance, and the progress made so far to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 6 targets for water and sanitation for all by 2030, there is still more to achieve these objectives “.

According to Lesotho’s vision of a sustainable digital hydro nation, the government wants “to develop Lesotho to become a sustainable digital hydro nation” and “it aims to develop a strategy that will position the Kingdom as a sustainable digital hydro nation and to address four overarching themes…”.

The Ministry had said this soon to be hosted Conference and Expo offers a platform for commencement of its journey to the “sustainable digital hydro nation “.

These themes are; Water, Hydrogen and Digital for Life; Water, Hydrogen and Digital for Green Growth and Development; Water, Hydrogen and Digital for Human Capital Development and Water, Hydrogen and Digital for Regional Development.

The Ministry’s dream is to generate 5 000 MW of electricity and to export excess to South Africa and Contribute to the SADC (Southern African Development Community) pool.

The Minister of Natural Resources Hon Mohlomi Moleko has said the conference is expected to attract experts throughout the world who will teach Lesotho on how to leverage the hydrogen related technologies within the water industry.

“Notably you have a Hydrogen whereby the world is moving to Hydrogen as a fuel source, for instance to power planes, to power cars, so you can actually see that the whole world is moving towards Hydrogen as a source of energy.

“Now, with us having water, we actually have abundant Hydrogen but before we can do anything with that, we have to learn about it. We have to have this where [we] as Basotho and the world in general will be taught about Hydrogen, about oxygen so that we can see what kind of projects the government can undertake which are safe and sound for the nation,” the Minister said.

This much anticipated water expo will be hosted by the government in concert with Ramano’s Metsi ke Bophelo Company which is locally registered.

The conference, Communications Liaison Officer, Nthakoana Ngatane said the government had approached and sold its idea of exploring potential benefits within the water sector to Ramano. Ramano, she said, will be critical in guiding Lesotho on how to strategically harness opportunities related to water including consumption and for economic purposes, among others.

She said Lesotho can become a Digital storage of water related information which could be used for different purposes including by academics, researchers, and business.

Ngatane said this conference is going to provide avenues to explore various opportunities within the water sector.

Meanwhile, the expo has received criticism and resistance from some of the majority ruling Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) Members of Parliament (MPs) in a leaked clip expressed concern over this upcoming conference and about one of the figures involved, the prominent South Africa’s entrepreneur Mashudu Ramano who is the founder of Mitochondria Energy Company.

An MP whom this publication could not immediately establish who he was, was addressing Hon Moeketsi Motšoane who is the Chairperson of the Natural Resources Portfolio Committee to apprise them of the expo, also latter said he knew nothing about.

Recently, the youth from both ruling and opposition parties convened a press conference where they frowned upon the conference and the undue involvement of some people in the affairs of Lesotho saying caution must be exercised by the government lest, the Fraser Solar saga repeats itself.

There are fears that this initiative is similar to the Fraser Solar debacle that had plunged the country into high costs of protracted legal battle. By way of background, Fraser Solar is suing the government of Lesotho for allegedly breaching the supply agreement to install energy saving equipment.

It is alleged that then Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Hon Temeki Tšolo signed the agreement on behalf of the government with the German based Fraser Solar for supply of energy saving equipment. Tšolo has since rubbished these allegations also questioning the order of appearance of his name in the document saying despite the names appearing in the document that was not his signature.

The case is still ongoing before the High Court division of Gauteng, in South Africa.

Speaking on Lesotho Television last week, the Ministry said the government is using Ramano features on this project as he is well connected and knows many potential sponsors who could come to invest in this initiative.

Early July, the government launched the Water, Hydrogen, and Future Digital Conference where the Prime Minister gave a keynote address.

During the recent 15th BRICS Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Prime Minister, Ntsokoane Matekane extended the invitation to the Heads of State and Government who were participating in that Summit to ascend to Lesotho for this water summit

Extending the invitation to world leaders and those of international institutions, Matekane said: “We welcome strategic partnerships with like-minded nations and institutions. We invite all of you to grace this ground-breaking conference with your presence.”

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