The Southern African Energy Network (SEAN) consists of 11 trade unions from SADC countries that organize in the energy sector. These unions are affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union and the network is coordinated by the African Regional Office. A central goal of the Network is to have influence on the energy landscape in the region.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region in 1995 formed a cooperation between the national electricity companies in Southern Africa called the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP). The main purpose of the power pool is to provide reliable and economical electricity supply to consumers in participating countries.
The SAPP and by extension, each country in the SADC region, have failed to make progress towards the goals of a reliable and economical power supply, with rising costs making electricity unaffordable to the working class majority. Electricity is still mostly inaccessible to rural communities in the SADC region, even if infrastructure to service mining or other commercial interests is within reach. The rising costs of power as well as the scheduled and unscheduled black outs is unattractive to investors especially in industrial and manufacturing sectors and as a result, there seems to be less value addition to raw materials produced in the region, which is exported along with its job creation potential.
Whilst infrastructure projects under SAPP has achieved an interconnected grid for transmission of available power between countries, this seems to have provided a reprieve for power utilities that were able to delay capital expenditure on generation capacity in the region. However the reprieve has expired and there is a need for coordinated discussion on an energy policy framework for the region to bring about sustainable energy developments with sound economic, environmental and social practices. To this end participation and involvement of women, youth and people with disabilities in the energy mix policy discussions and implementation is of critical importance. SAEN aims to push for social dialogue within the SAPP to include labour issues in their agenda and to co-ordinate co-operation among energy sector unions in southern Africa as well as to influence the regional energy delivery landscape and market.
On the other hand a key concern for trade unions is the contrasting approaches to energy concepts. They realise more and more that renewable energies have to play a more important in the generating of electricity.
The FES Trade Union Competence Centre Sub Sahara Africa supports SAEN with policy advice, information systems and capacity building activities to strengthen the position of Shop Stewards and Trade Unions in energy companies from DRC, Swaziland, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.