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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2005, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Why are we plagued by power cuts?
African boy doing his homework by candlelight (ęPractical Action/Crispin Hughes')

What is it like living without power?

More than a century after the invention of the light bulb, only about a quarter of people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity.

In the villages, the situation is worse: 92% of people have no electricity.

And yet countries like South Africa, Zambia, Ghana and Mozambique generate but export electricity.

So, how do you feel about being left in the dark when your government supplies power to other countries? Can we live without electric light? Has a power cut ever changed your life?

The debate is now closed, but you may like to enter the power cut story competition by clicking below

Send Africa Have Your Say your best power cut story and you could win a renewable energy lantern that promises up to eight hours bright light.


Your comments:

The rainy season is finally here and for Malawians, that means frequent black outs. And it is all blamed on environmental degradation and a host of other reasons, some of which I believe are manageable. But of course, not all areas are affected by these power cuts; some areas, where the big fish reside, have power throughout the year.
Arnold Munthali, Blantyre, Malawi

Africa needs solar power and wind turbines
Tom, Ireland
Africa needs the low voltage model (12/24V DC), using solar panels and wind turbines. This would allow power to the village. Light and the use of small appliances (mobile phone, computer, radio, TV) would improve. It would cost about $1,000 per village or town. This would put Africa as number one in electrical energy effectiveness and efficiency.
Tom, Ireland

I live in Port-Gentil in Gabon and I know we do not export electricity; however it is sad to see that a country such as Gabon, which has high unused hydroelectric capacity, leaves about 30% of its people without electricity. It is even worse in Libreville, where the company providing electricity did not plan any expansion of their supply. It is time to banish monopolies.
Placide Matsiaba, Port-Gentil, Gabon

It is a shame that a country like Uganda, which is capable of exporting electricity to Kenya, has resorted to incidents of load sharing, as they call it, and risky instances of power theft! BBC, can you hold interviews with the ministers concerned and ask them to explain?
David, Bedford, UK

It is not only an industrial loss, but it stagnates the brain as well.
James William Mugeni, Tororo, Uganda

The problem with Nigeria is that we do not appreciate the role power plays in the development of an economy. If we did, our leaders would not leave these power stations fallow. If Dubai can generate 45,000 MW of electricity, then there must be something badly wrong with Nigeria as a whole generating just 3700MW. We are not serious!
Ono Orogun, London, England

Highly qualified engineers were demoted
Dirk de Klerk, SA/London
My father (now retired) worked for the Electric Supply Commission in South Africa. I know that many highly qualified engineers were demoted or encouraged to leave because they were white and therefore not very employable according to the affirmative action laws. Many engineers became self-employed engineering consultants, offering their services back to the Electrical Supply Commission (which is stranded without qualified engineers) at higher fees than their previous salary.
Dirk de Klerk, SA/London

I am annoyed by the fact that Uganda generates power that goes throughout East Africa but every day from seven to 10 we have electricity rationing. The countries it supplies like Kenya do not experience these power shortages that often.Maseme Machuka, Kampala, Uganda

I grew up in Kenya. The only time we had power cuts was if it rained heavily so that a tree fell on the power lines. Power was rationed during the dry seasons, when there was less water for the dams but even then we were warned. It was for some hours during the day and the hospitals were given first priority.
Kemi, Hamburg, Germany

My guest went to a hotel
Andrew Esiebo, Ibadan, Nigeria
It is a pity that we still experience power cuts from time to time. The latest incident was when I happened to have a guest from South Africa who vacated my apartment and went to a hotel with a generator, since she could not make use of power for two days.
Andrew Esiebo, Ibadan, Nigeria

Each time we have a power failure, I just realize how entirely dependent we human beings are on technology. Our national electricity corporation has been nick named Always Expect Shortages because of their unpredictable and persistent light rationalising sequence. People are too fed up to complain. But this corporation can never dare when there is a football match.
Israel Ambe Ayongwa, Bamenda, Cameroon

So much work to do, no way of getting it done
Comfort, Student in Ghana
Apparently I'm a student in Ghana, schooling in Cape Coast and as a matter of fact recently we've been experiencing a number of power cuts, the latest being only yesterday. Being faced with this situation is very devastating since there is so much work to do but no way of getting it done.
Comfort Sarkodee-Addo, Cape Coast, Ghana

Since the day we saw the first light from our mother's womb we are made to believe and understand that power cuts are pretty much a normal part of life. For those in the city, it is good fortunate smiling on them to have power and for those in the villages it is the privilege of a lifetime.
Abubakar Ibrahim, Accra, Ghana

It is a sin for one to stay in the dark whilst the government is busy making money out of other countries by supplying them lights.
Otobo Afam, Ivory Coast

As long as taxes remain high and the majority do not have disposable income, fundamental basic human rights like electricity will continue to elude most Africans. My country Zambia is currently reeling from serious load shedding resulting from obsolete equipment which requires colossal amounts to maintain/repair, hence each time there is a breakdown. If electricity becomes affordable to the majority, I have no problem with exporting it, for my country to improve on its current account deficit.
Gabriel, Lusaka, Zambia

I have not had power for the last three days
Anthony, Lagos, Nigeria
I have not known 24 hours of uninterrupted power supply for countless years now. As I write this piece, I have not had power for the past three days! Nigerians depend largely on their generators for their primary source of power and the public power utility as backup.
Anthony, Lagos, Nigeria

It's terrible the way one cannot plan because of power failure. It even surprises me that Nigerians are unwilling to take full advantage of renewable energy sources. Though they are expensive initially and the installers want to make the most money, I still believe that if groups of people come together to arrange solar panels for their estates or communities, at least you would be sure that you are getting what you are paying for.
Elizabeth Oghoro, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

I agree with Hilary when he said the strength of development lies in steady power supply. Unfortunately, African rulers don't seem to understand this wisdom. Many countries within our continent are still not able to supply power efficiently to their citizens. Worse, in some countries such Chad, even in the capital people have been living without power for years and still things not about to be solved soon. Everyone who runs business has to purchase a generator. Out of Ndjamena, people have forgotten for a long about electricity. How can we expect economic growth in such conditions?
Abakar Ali, Ndjamena, Chad

Supplying light to other countries reflects a good spirit of sharing. But leaving citizens without light is an injustice. If government officials have access to light, why do they leave the poor in the dark?
Alfred Kenyi, Nimule, Sudan

South Africa is probably the most developed country on the African continent, but that does not stop frequent power cuts even in large cities such as Pretoria and Johannesburg. Winter times are especially bad - power can be down for several days. I am told that the infrastructure cannot keep up with property development.
Scott Ryan, Pretoria, South Africa

I think having a power cut for two hours a day or so would accrue massive global savings
Dumi, Zimbabwe

The whole world should endure power cuts. After all, electric energy is finite. People should stop behaving as if there's no end to consumption and use of natural resources. We should all pay a tax for use of power. I think having a power cut for two hours a day or so would accrue massive global savings!
Dumi, Zimbabwe

It was very hard for me when I was in secondary school in Ethiopia. Power used to go off during study time forcing us to pack up and go home. Yes, I grew up in southern Sudan where there was no electricity. However, it did not matter because that was the way our society lived.
Peter Tuach, USA

I spent three years living in Nigeria where electricity was always off. On leaving Nigeria, I spent three months travelling through Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, The Gambia and Cape Verde - most of which are poorer countries than Nigeria. In all that time in those countries we only had one power cut, and it lasted 30 minutes. If these other countries can manage it, why can't Nigeria?
Martin Edney, Southampton, UK

Staying in darkness at night is away of life in southern Sudan
Pal Gatkuoth Deng, USA

In southern Sudan, we live without power supply every day. We have thatched homes (Juaat) and cook using fire wood. Staying in darkness at night is away of life in southern Sudan.
Pal Gatkuoth Deng, USA

In Zambia power cuts are becoming unbearable. We have the Kariba north bank, Musi-oa-Tunya, Kafue gorge and the Copperbelt energy yet we are often told there is no power supply because of load shedding - whatever this means. To make matters worse, this shedding will go on until 2007. It's disgusting.
Mazuba Mwiinga, Zambia

In our great country of Gabon, we have power around the clock, seven days a week. I'm 30 now and I cannot remember the last time we had a power cut.
Godwin Ukpong, Libreville, Gabon

A nation without light is, metaphorically and scientifically speaking, a nation in which the leadership is not trading, but trampling on its people. Whether it is in the industrial north or the underdeveloped south, electricity is a political commodity, and any leadership that cannot provide it to its people has no business being in power.
Gbanabom Hallowell, USA

Most Ugandans who cannot afford it have resorted to stealing electricity by bypassing the meter
Ojambo Anthony, Uganda

Electricity in Uganda has become almost impossible to afford. Most Ugandans who cannot afford it have resorted to stealing electricity by bypassing the meter during the night and connecting back during the day. How does one expect Ugandans in the rural areas to have access to power when they live on less than a dollar per day?
Ojambo Anthony, Uganda

Living without power has plagued Malawi ever since the nation was born. It is ironic that Africa, which has plenty of sunlight and could use it to generate electricity for every home, has the minimum number of solar panels! Who is willing to invest in solar electricity in Africa?
Dambe Isaias Leo, Malawi

It is pity we still experience constant power cuts in Africa, which is supposed to be the recipient of investment and development. Anyway, we are used to it in Nigeria, but what is now killing me is the constant noise pollution from the thousands of generators that spring to life immediately power goes off. My head feels like exploding.
Harrison Iyere, Nigerian in Netherlands

It's an appalling situation in Ghana. Almost every resident in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi has an electricity generator on standby. I pity the poor who can't afford such facilities. What's even more intriguing is the fact that Ghana exports power to Togo!
Anwar Sadat Issah, Ghana

No investor would want to put their money in a country where power cuts are common
Kwaku Sakyi-Danso, Ghana

A Nation like Ghana exports electricity to Togo and some other sub-Regional African countries, yet most rural areas in the country have no power connection. No investor would want to put their money in a country where power cuts are common.
Kwaku Sakyi-Danso, Ghana

It is really sad when your own home is in the dark, but you have enough to supply other homes. I see that as irresponsible on the part of African governments, a misplaced priority.
Charles Nii Ayiku, Switzerland

How in the world do you expect African peoples to have electricity when the emphasis is on church buildings, alcohol and cigarette factories. It is hard to discuss this issue, so long as those in power have not heard of solar and wind generating technology. Yes, Kwame will be deeply disappointed.
Charles Massaquoi, USA

I was happy when our first President Kwame Nkrumah constructed the Akosombo dam. And I have been very happy living with electricity, until last week Saturday, when the power went off all over Ghana after the football match that qualified us to the World Cup. I believe Nkrumah would feel bad in his grave.
Prince Fiifi Yawson, Accra, Ghana

We will gladly pay for power if we use it
Kingsley Ezenekwe, Lagos
That power cuts are a way of life for us in Nigeria is no news. My biggest problem is the abysmal customer service and crazy bills dished out to consumers by Nepa. They do not read the metres, but estimate the bills themselves. Once the bill has been sent, it must be paid.

You must then paste it on your wall or you will be disconnected. I once went on a transfer, and was still getting bills, even after I had written to the authorities. They eventually disconnected the light, and I was still getting bills. I eventually paid for nine months of power in an empty house! The prayer on everybody's lips is for this sector to be privatised like the communications sector. We will gladly pay for power, if we use it.
Kingsley Ezenekwe, Lagos, Nigeria

We have numerous power cuts and suffer rationing, which amounts to about two electric hours a day! All this for around $400 a month and at my home we don't use electric for cooking or heating water! Wonder where all the money goes?
Mark, Nairobi

It is in us to stay in darkness
Chigozie, Kano

It is in us to stay in darkness. We are never disturbed while in darkness. But the major problem here in Nigeria is corruption. Obasanjo has being spending a lot of money in this sector yet no output. May God help us.
Chigozie, Kano, Nigeria

We have abundant electric power but we live in thatched houses in our villages. We need to improve in terms of infrastructure.
Haggai, Sichalwe, Lusaka, Zambia

It is a forgotten state
Godwin Ondoma, Abuja

Nigeria's case is the worst in Africa when it comes to electricity. With so much resources, more than three-quarters of the population still live in the dark especially in the state of Benue. It is a forgotten state. God help us.
Godwin Ondoma, Abuja, Nigeria

We have to live without mains electricity - in our area in Gambia there is to be no new water or electricity distribution. We use solar for lighting and don't bother with anything else other than a generator and pump for the well. We are lucky though - we can afford those.
Allen Coulson, Bijolo, The Gambia

We are no longer in the Stone Age and as such, electricity is very important
Omorodion Osula, Boston

Power outage is no news in Benin City, Nigeria. It is a daily occurrence. It is not something you look forward to everyday. If you have anything to do with electricity, do it while it is on. It is sad and unfortunate that in this day and age, Africa is still struggling with power outages. How can a country be supplying other countries electricity when they cannot even guarantee light for 24 hours in their own country?

People have lost their electronic gadgets and millions due to incessant electricity supply. Worse still, the electric company still charges for full month even though they barely supplied light. A lot of people have died from generator fumes which are supposed to provide alternative light.

While I do not have anything against the government supplying other countries, the proceeds should be used to buy new equipment and provide constant light for the general populace. We are no longer in the Stone Age and as such, electricity is very important. Almost everything we do involves electricity. One will be handicapped to a great extent without electricity.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

Power cuts were a plague and horror for me while living in Nigeria. Lagos the commercial city never had a day's power supply. It affected my ability to concentrate with studies and it hampered all the socio-economic activities around me. The western world's strength of development lies in their steady power supply. I hope that Lagos will one day wake up to this reality.
Hilary Ugorji, Nigerian in UK





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