By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The Third Annual General Assembly Conference and Exhibition of the African Forum for Utility Regulators (AFUR) got underway at a local resort in Windhoek yesterday. This is the first time that Namibia is hosting the conference, which runs until March 19. Over 100 participants are in attendance together with support staff. The conference, held under the theme “Regulatory Governance – Exploring Innovative and Hybrid Models” is expected to be officially opened by President Hikepunye Pohamba tomorrow. During the first day of deliberations yesterday, experts in the electricity sector in Africa discussed the primary role of the Sectoral Committees, namely Energy, Water and Sanitation and Telecommunications. Attention will also focus on “AFUR Strategic Plan 2006-2010” that strives to outline its current achievements and pave the way ahead. Executive Secretary of AFUR Mufor Atanga informed participants that the main goal of these three committees was to serve as “work engines of AFUR and in promoting and facilitating wider participation as well as cooperation in the development and implementation of the organisation’s work programme across the utility sectors”. He noted that one of the challenges facing AFUR since its inception in November 2002 was how to broaden and catalyse the participation of various staff levels in the member regulatory agencies in the programmes and other activities of the organisation. “Exploring ways to address this challenge is crucial to the organisation for purposes of enhancing and sustaining its programmes and ultimately realising the ‘Vision’ of being the African forum for effective utility regulation,” added Atanga, saying that there should be a high degree of flexibility in this process. When AFUR was launched four years ago as a voluntary organisation with 30 member countries, it was envisaged that it would contribute towards the ideals of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The organisation aims to foster cooperation between utility regulators in Africa that are mainly focussed on issues related to the regulation of energy/electricity, telecommunications, water and sanitation. Participants who include utility regulators, government ministers, consultants, investors, equipment manufacturers and cooperating international partners will for the next eight days network and exchange views on pertinent issues facing the industry. These issues include working out effective regulation, discussing regional and international experiences in regulatory governance and appointing new office bearers for AFUR. Besides the conference, energy corporations around the world have mounted their work on 20 exhibition stalls. The conference is being organised by AFUR, together with the Electricity Control Board, RERA and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), with support from the World Bank/Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF). The previous Annual General Assembly AFUR Conference was held in Uganda last year. Namibia is currently hosting the third Annual AFUR conference shortly after the country successfully held the SADC Electricity Investment Conference in September last year.