Hon Folks, what’s the cost of 10 to 14 hour daily black-outs? Never mind, we just might never know its impact to the GDP (gross domestic product) but most likely much higher than the 2 percent Africa average.
Escom indicates the situation is likely to get worse as the dry season lingers on. I take that to imply the frequency and duration of power outages are expected to increase. They say it’s all because water levels in the Shire are too low to allow seamless generation of hydropower to the levels needed to light up Malawi 24/7.
The expectation created is that when the rains come and the level of the Shire goes up then….what? The last time the Shire flooded with water Escom did not give us light. It was the same lengthy blackout schedule blamed on siltation, debris, old equipment and God know what else!
So, if it’s lengthy blackouts come rainy or dry season, when can Escom which pegs its tariffs to the US dollar under the automatic pricing system, give its customers whose incomes are pegged to the volatile kwacha, value for money?
Visit a city butchery hours into the lengthy load-shedding schedule and see what becomes of the steak the butcher wants you to buy for your dinner—decomposing carcass exuding putrid smell that makes you feel like throwing up through the mouth. Here is an economic activity destined for the rubbish pit!
Go to city supermarkets when the lengthy load-shedding schedule is in force. There’s dim light from a groaning generator and a stench from fresh foods gone stale. Messengers of doom have already warned on social media that gobbling foodstuff baked on food stalls in this summer heat could mean ingesting salmonella germs that cause food poisoning.
Take a ride to a rural trading centre when the lengthy load-shedding is in force. You are greeted by the deafening silence of electric grain mills in comatose. An enterprising welder who moved with the time and now banks on electricity to run his grinder, air compressor and other machines, may also be regretting, probably wishing they realised we’re still an economy in Dark Ages where appropriate technology principle favours use of crude manual tools.
But in the name of public sector reforms, is there a ministry or department out there responsible for energy? How about the water in the Shire and Lake Malawi, are they 100 percent God’s responsibility or do we pay some folks in government for managing such a strategic resource?
Kariba is a man-made lake yet it’s a source of hydro-electric power for people in Zambia and Zimbabwe, are we too helpless, too poor, too primitive or too stupid to allow perennial frequent and lengthy power outages continue to sink our economy?
Here we are waiting for the rains to swell the Shire, hoping Escom can then operate on full throttle to cater for 10 percent of the population, the least connected nation in the Sadc region. If the rains sweep debris downstream, then we shall continue waiting, accepting lengthy and frequent outages as normal.
Our hydro-electric power generation must wait for such a time when nature creates an atmosphere conducive for that to happen. If need be, we shall work hand-in-hand with the clergy to organise national service of worship to ask God to pour enough water in the Shire rain without debris.
That passive thinking, which defines the depth and breadth of our mediocrity, is the reason why half our population of 17 million will depend on food handouts this year. Our politicians blame the calamity on prolonged drought last season was to blame.
But Africa Risk Capacity Company Limited, which sold us a disaster recovery policy, used their technology and discovered our claim could not pass for draught, meaning we could have done much better with the amount rain we received. Instead of compensating us with K21 billion, they have grudgingly agreed to give us K3 billion, an amount much lower than the premium we had paid.
Does it strike you as odd that a government whose agenda is to wean the economy from donor aid, wooing foreign direct investment (FDI) instead, can sit and watch as the ailing economy of this poorest land-locked country gets powered by the genset?