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Page last updated at 17:48 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 18:48 UK

Melting in Zanzibar's blackout

The electricity blackout in Zanzibar is in its second week and the Tanzanian island's energy ministry says it is unclear when the problem will be fixed.

Small-scale entrepreneurs have been severely hit by the power crisis. Abuy, a shopkeeper in Stone Town, tells the BBC how he is coping.

Shopkeeper Abuy
Abuy has had to give a lot of frozen stock away
The two most popular items I sell are frozen chickens and ice cream.

All the stock had spoiled because of the power failures which brought my freezers to a halt.

I threw out the chickens and gave the melting ice cream to children playing outside.

I didn't even do the maths to think how much I lost financially.

Not realising the blackout would last as long as it has, when I was offered a load of chickens cheaper than usual, I bought the lot to recover my costs.

So, I had a freezer full of frozen chickens and no idea when we might get electricity back.

It all started last Wednesday, when all my friends had gathered in the area to watch the Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester United.

I am a big Man U fan.

I was ecstatic that my team [Man U] won, and surprised when the power didn't come back that night

When the electricity cut at half time, we didn't think it was a big problem, and waited a few minutes before finding a friend with a generator and satellite dish nearby to finish cheering the crucial game.

I was ecstatic that my team won, and surprised when the power didn't come back that night. But the next morning, there was talk that something serious had happened with the electricity.

I still opened my shop as normal.

A few days later after the first lot of chickens had gone off, I went to buy a small generator. It cost around $500 - the prices have gone up, but what could I do?

I am spending around $35 to $40 a day on fuel to run it. And how much am I making? Nothing.

Candles popular

No-one is buying frozen chickens because they are not cooking at home without electricity.

Shopkeeper Abuy
Abuy says he is losing money daily

If the blackout goes on for two months or more, as there are rumours it might, I will have to cut my losses and give all the chickens away.

There are over 100 in the freezers, and normally I would sell one for $4, but I have a big family and lots of friends who I can feed instead.

I can then stop running the generator and stick to selling water, tea and eggs instead - and candles, which are very popular at the moment.

The government has now placed generators at the state's water pumps, but even before the power cut some houses in Stone Town did not rely on their water supply.

I have a well in my garden which pumps water into 25 houses.

I now use the generator to pump that water into the main tank for free.

Everyone is struggling enough as it is, so I don't want to add to their costs. I also store fish and meat for my neighbours, give them ice when they need it, and charge their mobile phones.

I am losing money daily, but that is how Zanzibaris are - you do what you can to help others.


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SEE ALSO
Regions and territories: Zanzibar
29 Feb 08 |  Country profiles
Power-sharing deal for Zanzibar
18 Mar 08 |  Africa


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