Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hakuna Umeme

Yesterday, after my two+ hour commute into town, I arrived at the church to find that there was no electricity (hakuna umeme). Without electricity, we can’t use computers, and without computers, we can’t really do our work. Right now my team and I (we are officially the Economic Development Team) are formulating an analysis of an environmental project. We almost finished our work the day before, but yesterday we couldn’t finish it because all the work was saved on my computer… we brainstormed on paper what else needed to be done, then I ended up just going back home because we weren’t doing anything.

Coincidentally, I started to read the Tanzania Daily News and one of the cover stories was about electricity in Tanzania. Right now, the monopoly, state-owned Tanesco (Tanzania Electric Supply Company) is the sole provider of electricity. There have been large drops in water levels at the hydroelectric dams that provide a majority of power for Tanzania because of the recent drought and long dry spell that much of East Africa is currently experiencing.

There have already started to be frequent blackouts throughout Tanzania (when I was in Arusha, the power went out at 9:30pm pretty much every night) and Tanesco is planning to start a 14-hour power ration. 14 hours—That’s more than half the day!

Tanzania’s economy has just started to recover from months of recession, but it is expected that if power shortages continue, industrial production will contract and send Tanzania’s economy back into a slump. Sporadic power supply effects large scale, medium, and small businesses, but small entrepreneurs will most likely suffer the most because they cannot afford to buy generators.

I can easily see how this is going to be shida kubwa (a big problem). For example, many people sell cold drinks off the street to daladala riders and people passing by—a very good business because who doesn’t want a cold refreshment when it’s so hot outside?? But without electricity, there is no way to refrigerate the drinks, and no one will want to buy hot soda.

Also just from my experience at work and not being able to use the computer means that we can't complete our project. Shida kubwa.

There are some discussions taking place as to whether or not Tanzania should liberalize it’s power so that multiple private companies can be suppliers. Also, alternative sources of power are being taken into consideration. The article that I read mentioned coal as a possible alternative, which would be a relatively easy fix since there are several large coal mines in this country. But I don’t think that coal is the best option because of the negative effects on the environment. Maybe they should could consider wind or solar? In Dar at least, it seems to always be windy and there is definitely a lot of sun…

There is power now this morning, but I just hope that we really don’t start having 14 hours/ blackouts!

1 comment:

  1. Almost every place I travel, I find more and more of society is totally electricity dependent. We do nuts here when it is out for even an hour or two. I hear there are new roof tiles available that have built in solar cells. Very cool. Or maybe we need to learn, again, how to function without electric sockets. Unlikely. I'm on a new laptop from work, chatting with you on the other side of the world. Priceless! Love your writing, Rachel! Thank you for sharing your world with so much color, good humor, and empathy.