Zambia’s energy sector has over the past 50 years made landmark contributions to the country’s historic milestones that have significantly influenced the evolution of our country’s social and economic landscape.
With this background, it can be said with confidence that Zambia’s history cannot be told without the mention of the Copperbelt Energy Corporation Plc (CEC), the first privately owned power company in Zambia.
In the same vein, its future cannot be defined without a chapter on the Zambian majority owned company that has today grown into a group of companies and evolved into the leading Zambian investor, developer and operator of energy infrastructure in Africa.
What started as a strategic establishment to secure power supply to the power mines on the Copperbelt, in 1954, is today a recognisable brand of international standing steadily registering its presence on the African continent with investments in three other African countries that include Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria.
As Zambia celebrates 50 years of political independence, CEC is celebrating 60 years of existence and looking back with pride to its consistent contribution to Zambia’s economy, having been and continuing to be the power behind Zambia’s economic backbone, the mining industry, for so many years. CEC will also look to the future with resolve, positioning itself to take advantage of the sector reforms, and policy changes and enhancements to seize opportunities for continued growth for the benefit of its shareholders and the entire economy.
CEC’s key business activities and service offerings include power sales to the mines, with the Company accounting for about 50 per cent of Zambia’s total power sales, domestic wheeling for national utility, ZESCO Limited and international wheeling, which involves transmission of power through CEC’s 220kV power assets linking Zambia to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the rest of the SAPP (Southern African Power Pool) market.
The strategic establishment of the power line connecting Zambia and the Congo contributed to power system interconnection and laid a foundation for regional cooperation in power trade with what has today become an integrated power market in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region facilitated by the SAPP.
And indeed, years later, CEC was to work its way to regional recognition to become the first private power company to attain full membership of SAPP in November 2009, the regional body that is constituted largely of state owned power utilities.
CEC traces its origin to a company that was called Northern Rhodesia Power Corporation established in 1952. In or around 1954, the company became the Rhodesia-Congo Border Power Corporation whose purpose was to supply reliable and secure electricity to the mines in Zambia and the Congo by interconnecting separately run thermal power stations in the mining belt at the time. Later, the company sourced and supplied hydroelectric power from the Congo to supply to the mines in Zambia before Zambia produced hydroelectricity from Kariba.
CEC’s other forerunners were the Copperbelt Power Company (CPC) and ZCCM – Power Division. At Zambia’s independence in 1964, the Rhodesia-Congo Border Power Corporation became Copperbelt Power Company (CPC), an entity that supplied electricity to the mines until 1986 when it was incorporated into the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) as its Power Division.
In 1997, CEC was born out of the privatization of ZCCM Power Division. Cinergy Global Power of the USA and National Grid of the UK acquired the controlling stake in the Company.
The two investors subsequently sold off their 77 per cent stake in the Company to a group of local entrepreneurs with DFI backing. Thus, CEC was the first comprehensive electricity privatization in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Company is today increasingly seen as a successful model for privately owned and managed power utilities in Africa.
In January 2008, CEC made a giant step to become Zambia’s first power utility to list on the Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE) and remains the only one to date. Presently, CEC has empowered over 4000 Zambians through direct and indirect ownership of shares in the Company through the LuSE.
In 2009, CEC extended its business interests into telecommunications when it commercialized it fibre optic assets, partnering with Realtime Technology Alliance Africa (Pty), a well-established Internet Service Provider (ISP), currently servicing most of Zambia’s large corporate entities. In 2012, CEC stepped up its investment in the sector when it partnered with Mauritian-registered Liquid Telecommunications Limited, to form the CEC Liquid Telecoms joint venture, a company that has become a force to reckon with in Zambia’s telecommunication market in its few years of existence.
In its quest to grow and diversify the business, CEC has embarked on developing its flagship hydro power project – the 40 Mega Watts (MW) Kabompo Gorge Hydro Power project, located on the Kabompo River in Mwinilung’a District of North-Western Province.
The development of the first hydro power station in that part of the country represents a shift in the country’s norm, where the main hydropower stations are located in the southern part of the country. It is also a significant step in bringing reliable power to the main load centers in the Northern and North-West parts of the country. It also expands CEC’s contribution to Zambia’s Electricity Supply Industry and comes at a time when all efforts are being made to address a crippling power deficit in a country where access to electricity is still below 30per cent.
The US$215 million investment has considerable social and economic benefits for the local communities and the country at large. These include employment creation, upgrade of existing infrastructure, potential to accelerate rural electrification in five chiefdoms, which are traversed by the 110km long 33kV power transmission line for construction power, and the creation of two new townships, contributing to well-planned urbanization of Mwinilung’a District.
In its quest to attain pan-African status, CEC has positioned itself to take advantage of the opportunities in the African power infrastructure space by providing innovative solutions and building strategic partnerships on a continent with happening growth and an insatiable appetite for electric power. The CEC Group, through wholly owned subsidiary CEC Africa Investments Limited (CECA), now has a footprint in three other African countries – Nigeria, Namibia and Sierra Leone.
In Sierra Leone, CEC has an approved stake in a US$200 million project that will be one of the largest private sector investments in the country in general and the energy sector in particular and paves the way for construction of a new power plant in a country desperate for power and infrastructure to support its robust growth potential.
In Namibia, CECA signed a Joint Development Agreement with Namibia’s national power utility, NamPower and Kudu Power Limited to acquire up to 30% interest in Namibia’s 800MW Kudu gas to power generation project and to offtake up to 300MW of the scheme’s output on long term basis.
The Company has acquired operating assets in Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, through Abuja Electricity Distribution Company and Shiroro Hydropower Plant.
Working for the good of our communities
Throughout its 60 years of existence, CEC has put its quest for good corporate citizenship at the centre of its operations. Consequently, the Company has made landmark community investments that are a permanent feature in its operational environment with tales of social and economic transformation from beneficiaries.
In sports, CEC’s flagship community investment is the topflight premier league side and 6 times league winner, Power Dynamos Football Club (PDFC). Established in 1971, PDFC has enjoyed consistent sponsorship from the Company and its forerunners and with it has come cherished honour and glory.
CEC’s most recent community investments are visible in it areas of operation and include the landmark Ndeke – Nkana East link bridge that forms part of the road linking Kitwe’s Ndeke and Nkana East residential areas, serving as an alternative route into Kitwe’s central business district. An extension of this investment is a phased project to light up Kitwe with Central Street having already been transformed.
The Company has made considerable contributions to the health sector over the years, which has included adopting, refurbishing and maintaining children’s wards at Kitwe Central Hospital for a considerable period, and more recently, building a mourners’ shelter at the same institution.
The education sector has also been a huge beneficiary of CEC’s support. Twashuka School in Buchi run by CINDI, St. Francis Community School in Garnerton (now a government school), Mulenga Community School (also taken on by the government), Namwianga in Kalomo and Riverain are only a few of the schools around the country that can point to CEC for the support rendered in many different ways – from infrastructure to learning and teaching resources provision.
At the University of Zambia’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, CEC has rehabilitated and refurbished lecture rooms – equipping them with modern aids to improve the teaching and learning environment and instruction delivery, among other infrastructure improvements. A multi – million kwacha mini power system complete with two substations and an associated control room for educational purposes has equally advanced is nearing completion. This will provide students with real-life practical experience and, in no small measure, stem the gap between theoretical learning and practice.
Improvement of social amenities is a permanent feature of the Company’s social intervention efforts. Bus shelters have been erected and seats put up around some of the City’s public places.
CEC’s history, its growth and vision clearly attests to the Company’s well deserved place in Zambia’s 50 years of independence.
Happy 50th birthday Zambia!