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Power shortages

When the lights go out

by Derrick Silimina

In brief

Shop owners and other businesses suffer unreliable power supply.

Shop owners and other businesses suffer unreliable power supply.

When water levels in hydroelectric dams get low enough, the power utility cuts power to customers – sometimes for 20 hours per day. This has hit the economy hard across all sectors, including metal fabricators, hair salons, butchery shops and almost everyone else.

Teddy Mugala, owner of a butchery shop in Lusaka’s sprawling Soweto market, sees the impact immediately in his refrigerators. “My meat products go bad every time the power is shut down,” he says.

Zesco, the state-owned power company that supplies almost all the country’s electricity, publishes notices telling customers when and where to expect blackouts. In some areas power is cut from early morning until late in the evening.

To ease the situation, the government is trying to import 330 MW from South Africa at a cost of $ 27 million.

But business owners want faster solutions. “My business depends on a constant power supply,” says David Munyinda, a metal fabricator in Kalingalinga township near Lusaka. “The power comes on at 5 am for just two hours and then goes out again. How can I work like this?”