Lights Out in Accra: Dumsor Gets Worse

Since many months we have had a schedule for planned electricity cuts, or dumsor as we onomatopoetically call it here (due to the sound when a whole neighbourhood goes off DUUUM and comes back ‘SOR!)  (dum is Twi for “turn off” and sor for “turn on” I have been informed by a reader, thanks!) I didn’t want to believe the rumours of a new schedule with 24hours of no light and 12 hours with light? But alas it is true.

Just a few days ago my favourite author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote a piece for the New York Times called Lights out in Lagos. Much in her story resonates with the Ghanaian situation. Ngozi Adichie laments: “I spend more on diesel than on food!” What is even more painful for both Ghanaians and Nigerians is:

“how many medical catastrophes have occurred in public hospitals because of “no light,” how much agricultural produce has gone to waste, how many students forced to study in stuffy, hot air have failed exams, how many small businesses have foundered. What greatness have we lost, what brilliance stillborn?

 

Comments on the worsening situation in Ghana is also worrying. Some comments on social media (it seems all of them are about power these days):

I never thought I would say this, but this new 24 hour load shedding schedule makes me seriously want to flee Ghana for other shores.

24 hr load shedding is the limit! It goes from being a fond talking/joking point between Ghanaians to becoming a health and safety issue.

 

One of my friends, talented health blogger Kobby Blay wrote a list begging Ghana’s now two ministries dealing with power (all with the same staff?) to consider his plight. He wrote:

 Please give me electricity at home so:

  1. I will always be happy going home
  2. My wife don’t have to call me from the house [saying] we do not have light
  3. Our baby can sleep without waking up oftenbecause of the unbearable heat
  4. We can avoid the mosquito and malaria that come with it
  5. Our foodstuffs wont have to go badbecausse our fridge depends on power
  6. My online business can continue to earn me some extra income to fend for my familt
  7. My phone can be reached in case of calls from work

The problem is of course costly to solve and promising steps have been taken. Meanwhile however, many Ghanaians will not get a good night’s sleep. 

 

 

 

Utility Tariffs to Go Up: Ghana Connect Debate on Joy FM

In the news the last couple of days, we could read that the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) is having talks with government, initiated by the Volta River Authority (VRA) the biggest power producer in Ghana, on increasing tariffs for electricity and water. See  this Joy FM report for instance.

I have been invited to share my views on JoyFMs new program Ghana Connect – a program that allows regular Ghanaians – and myself – to voice our opinions together with stakeholders. Tonight VRA has been invited.

The producer/host sent me this blurb:

“Utility tariffs are set to go up. The only question now remains when and not if.  You must be prepared to pay as much as 166 per cent more for electricity and water than you are paying now. The expert consultations have already started but on Ghana Connect this Friday, we connect the Ghanaian consumer in Ghana and beyond to interrogate the proposed tariff increases. Are you ready to pay more and how much is enough?”

My argument in brief is:
  1. At some point we need to pay what utilities actually cost in order for the service to be sustainable.
  2. Utility subsidies favor middle and upper class people more than the poor as generators and poly tanks use more than dumso-dumso and buckets.
  3. Electricity production is complicated, but there is NO REASON why Ghana should not be able to provide potable water for its population.
  4. Increasing prices by more than 100% is not advisable as ripple effects are huge and people need to plan expenses. What is the plan for the next five years?
  5. On the other hand, private solutions (batteries/generators and pure/bottled water cost much much more) and from a Swedish perspective we have a lot to win from solving these issues together rather than apart.

As I sent out an email to BloggingGhana about this radio program, many of our members provided their two pesewas – so this issue is HOT!  Someone called the increase “draconian” another person said “I would prefer to pay, than to pretend to be paying bills as they also pretend to be giving me a service.”

Tune in at 6.30 PM if you want to hear me voice my views.