Hello friends, welcome to Week 2 of WinterABC2022. The theme for this week is stories of home so I have to set about to educate myself a bit more on what goes around this continent of ours. For today, I decided to just bring to the surface, the issue of power cuts and how they affect our daily lives across the continent. One of my favourite places on this thing we call the internet, is the Africa is a country website. I have been a reader for a couple of years now and it is one of the places I get knowledge about the African continent. For this week, I decided to borrow their theme and use it as we talk about African stories and to show how this place is indeed a country. You can find my previous WinterABC2022 posts here.
ESCOM, ESKOM, ZESCO, PHCN formerly known as NEPA just to mention a few are the power suppliers for Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Nigeria respectively. If you are a reader of Nigerian literature, generators are quite a common feature or as I once read somewhere “NEPA took the light again”. On the BBC Focus on Africa program, they once had a segment on Nigeria’s electricity woes and I remember one of the interviewees mentioning that the current Nigerian electrical grid was not even close to supplying what the country needed. A quick look at the ZESCO Facebook page shows a 1.5 rating out of 5 stars, meaning that things are not very rosy either on the other side of the border. As for South Africa, they even have load shedding stages, with stage 1 you can rest easy but if you get stage 8, I can imagine one wanting to pack their bags and wanting to leave the country. South African social media users hilariously document their load shedding woes all the time and they do make for some good laughs. Back home in Malawi, power outages are now worse than ever thanks to Cyclone Anna that came through earlier this year. A day does not go by without a WhatsApp status complaining about ESCOM and their shenanigans. As a matter of fact, parts of this piece were written during a power outage.
How is it that our governments cannot seem to make an effective plan when it comes to power supply issues? Electricity is basically what makes this world go round and yet, we keep taking one step forward and two steps back. The demand for power continues to increase year after year and so do the load shedding schedules. Malawi for instance, relies on hydroelectricity, the Shire river is our source of power but climate change keeps showing us that this source will no longer be sustainable in the coming years. Our economies cannot grow without a stable power grid, even investors would be wary of coming into a region with less than ideal electricity structures. About two months ago, I went to my nail technician to get my nails done and the power kept going out and I ended up not getting my nails done. My nail technician lamented that she has been making less money than she normally does due to the intermittent power supply. Similar stories abound all over Sub-Saharan Africa, and the socioeconomic implications for the individual can be severe. As I was researching for this post, I came across a piece that talked about the power woes in Guinea being so bad that students were going to the airport to study at night. And yet Africa is the richest in natural resources, we have everything we need right here but for some reason or a myriad of complicated reasons, we essentially have nothing.
I honestly wonder if African leaders do care about the future of this continent or as long as their pockets are full, it is business as usual. We need to make serious power investments across this continent. With dwindling natural resources, renewable resources are our best bet. Solar and wind farms have proven to be sustainable sources of energy and with the amount of sun that most of this continent gets, we could surely make solar power work. It is quite encouraging when I see solar power farms sprouting up in Malawi and I hope that the same is happening across the continent.